MADISON, Wis. — The Latest on Wisconsin Elections Committee meeting to discuss attempted Russian hack (all times local):
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is reiterating that it believes 21 states were the target of Russian government hackers seeking vulnerabilities and access to the U.S. election infrastructure.
Homeland Security earlier Tuesday told Wisconsin election officials that the Russian government didn’t scan the state’s voter registration system, but was targeting a different agency.
But later Tuesday Homeland Security spokesman Scott McConnell told The Associated Press in a statement that “discussions of specific IP addresses do not provide a complete picture of potential targeting activity.”
McConnell says the department stands by its assessment that 21 states were targeted. It told Wisconsin on Friday it was one of those states.
McConnell says it was providing additional information to states that had questions Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission says Russian hackers may have been trying to access the state voter registration database but scanned one belonging to another state agency by mistake.
Commission spokesman Reid Magney said Tuesday that “it’s been a difficult process trying to piece all of this together.”
Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator Michael Haas says one theory is that Homeland Security saw suspicious activity from IP addresses targeting state election systems in other states and assumed that was the intent in Wisconsin as well.
Homeland Security told Wisconsin on Friday its voter registration database was scanned by hackers but not infiltrated. But on Tuesday, Homeland Security said the election system wasn’t the target but rather the Department of Workforce Development.
The state is working on bolstering its cyber security plans.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now says that the Russian government scanned a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development database, not the state voter registration system as the state was originally told on Friday.
Homeland Security reversed course in an email sent to the Elections Commission on Tuesday as it was discussing the security concern.
The email came after Homeland Security told state elections officials on Friday that it was one of 21 states targeted by the Russians. But Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator Michael Haas said Tuesday he had been repeatedly assured by Homeland Security that Wisconsin’s election system had not been a target.
The state’s chief information officer said Tuesday that IP addresses it was told by Homeland Security to block never targeted the state’s election systems.
Wisconsin’s chief information officer says the state’s election systems were protected last year from potential attacks from Russian government actors.
Chief information officer David Cagigal told the Wisconsin Elections Commission that “Our systems were protected and we had no incidences.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed Wisconsin on Friday that it was one of 21 states targeted by Russian hackers. Cagigal and deputy information officer Herb Thompson equated the attempted breach to Russians turning a doorknob to see if it was unlocked. Thompson says the state had already taken steps to protect against potential attacks to the state’s voter registration database and election systems.
Thompson says blocks were put in place in August and scans Homeland Security said came from Russian actors happened in October.
The chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission says the delay in the state being notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about an attempted security breach by Russians was “not acceptable.”
Commission chairman Mark Thomsen apologized for the late notice at a commission meeting Tuesday.
The state was told by Homeland Security on Friday afternoon that Wisconsin was one of 21 states targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. Wisconsin election officials had long said the state was not a target.
Thomsen says, “If we would have asked more questions, we would have or should have known” about the hacking attempt. He says, “it should never be a situation where this commission learns three days ago about something that occurred in October.”
Thomsen says that delay in accountability is “not acceptable and with that I apologize.”
Wisconsin election leaders are slated to discuss ways to bolster security efforts after the state’s voter registration system was targeted by Russian hackers.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission planned to discuss the attempted hack and steps they can take to improve security at a Tuesday meeting.
The commission had already formed a team to create a new security plan before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told the state on Monday it was one of 21 targeted by “Russian government cyber actors.”
The hacking attempt focused on the state’s voter registration database, not voting results that are collected and counted by more than 1,850 local election clerks.
The state hopes to have a new security plan in place before the 2018 elections.