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US government confirms election systems were targeted by hackers in 21 states [Update]

Image credit: Reuters

While federal officials had suspected foreign meddling in the 2016 elections for some time, this Friday marked the first time the Department of Homeland security officially contacted the 21 states that they believe were the targets of such activity.

Though the names of the states were not explicitly mentioned by DHS, upon further probing by the Associated Press, officials from the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin confirmed they were among those notified.

Despite being targeted, most of these states were not subject to a loss or manipulation of information and it would seem that the hacking activity was mostly resigned to preliminary reconnaissance with systems remaining mostly uncompromised, except in Illinois where hackers were able to breach the voter systems.

The announcement was met with some criticism by states, which bemoaned the long delay between the first public statements by the DHS indicating activity of this nature and the official announcements to the respective states this Friday, many of whom only found out they were subject to hacking attempts at this point.

Officials from California, Wisconsin, and Virginia noted that despite repeated requests for confirmation on whether their state had been affected, federal officials had provided little information till now, emphasizing the need for real-time sharing of such information so that states may shore up their cyber defenses in a timely manner.

Update: According to new information, there may be some inaccuracies in DHS' conclusions. The Associated Press later reproted that Wisconsin, one of the 21 states mentioned by the DHS, was not, in fact, targeted, leading to a reversal by the DHS. Another state mentioned by the DHS, California, also said that the claim regarding their jurisdiction was false as after a request for further information, its Secretary of State said that: "it became clear that DHS' conclusions were wrong."

Source: Associated Press (1), (2), The Independent

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