Russian hackers targeted election-related systems in 21 states leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Trump administration officials told Congress on Wednesday.
Jeanette Manfra, the acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, made the disclosure Wednesday during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its probe of Russia’s interference in the election.
“As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted,” Manfra told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Hill added:
“Officials would not disclose which states were targeted, emphasizing the need to protect the confidentiality of the states affected. Authorities have previously said that voter databases in Arizona and Illinois were breached by foreign-based hackers. It is also unclear whether any of the remaining state systems were successfully breached.”
Manfra would not disclose what states had data “exfiltrated” from their systems when questioned by vice chair Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
“I prefer not to go into those details in this forum,” Manfra said.
Sen. Warner expressed frustration at Manfra’s refusal to identify which states had been targeted.
“I just fundamentally disagree,” he said.
Manfra said that all of the “system owners” targeted within the states are aware that they were targeted and that any states that had data exfiltrated are also aware, maintaining that the systems targeted were not involved in vote counting, while reiterating that U.S. elections are resilient to hacking because of their decentralized nature.
Sen. Angus King, however, expressed skepticism at that assertion.
“A sophisticated actor could hack an election simply by focusing on certain counties,” King said. “I don’t think it works just to say it’s a big system and diversity will protect us.”
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House congressional panel that it was “pure and simple” Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed cyberattacks at the US to try to influence the election but didn’t change any results.
“In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election – plain and simple,” Johnson, a President Obama appointee, said.
“Now, the key question for the President and Congress is: what are we going to do to protect the American people and their democracy from this kind of thing in the future?”