Feds reject NBC report on Russia's election hacking

  • Feds reject NBC report on Russia's election hacking

Feds reject NBC report on Russia's election hacking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence had evidence that voter registration systems or websites in seven states - Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin - were compromised by Russian-backed operatives before the 2016 election but never told the states, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

News reported Tuesday that the intelligence was requested on the behest of former President Barack Obama during the last weeks of his administration. However, sources told NBC News some of the breaches were considered more serious than others.

The NBC report, attributed to three unnamed "senior intelligence officials", had called into question what Bahnke said in September: that Russian "cyber actors" made a failed effort to access Alaska's voter registration database in 2016. It told them 21 states had been targeted and some had been breached, NBC News reported.

Department of Homeland Security officials and states have frequently disagreed on the extent of Russian intrusion into their systems during the 2016 election cycle. At the time, federal officials acknowledged that a number of the attempts were successful but did not say in which states. Nor does it say whether the "compromised" system in the state connected directly to voting or was an unrelated website.

Asked how anxious Alaskans should be about the security of the state's elections, Bahnke responded that "the threat is real", citing the U.S. Justice Department's recent charges that 13 Russians had tried to interfere with the 2016 election.

This is not the first NBC report on possible Russian hacking that has drawn criticism from the DHS.

The US officials in the NBC report said several states were warned about the breaches before the 2016 election, but none were told that Moscow was behind it.

Federal officials said late Tuesday that NBC's report was "factually inaccurate and misleading".

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed in a June 2017 Senate intelligence hearing that at least 21 states were targeted and hackers had probed their registration systems.

The elections commission says the state of Wisconsin's online system, including elections, are well-protected by the state's Division of Enterprise Technology. In almost all states, only preparatory activity like scanning was observed. Earlier this month, the agency rebuffed an NBC report claiming Russian hackers had "successfully penetrated" USA voter systems before the election. We have said it before and will say it again: in no case is there any evidence that votes were changed or that Russian actors gained access to systems involved in vote tallying. "We stand by our state and local partners who are working diligently to secure the nation's election infrastructure in 2018 and beyond".