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Vt. Told Feds of Hack Attempt

Published: 10/19/2018 11:45:59 PM
Modified: 10/19/2018 11:46:14 PM

The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office notified the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in August that a computer with a Russian IP address had been attempting to search for vulnerabilities in the state’s voter registration database.

The apparent efforts to penetrate the system in August, like others up to this point, were unsuccessful, according to Vermont’s Secretary of State Jim Condos.

While such attempts are frequent, it was the first such effort to target Vermont’s election computers that the state reported to the Department of Homeland Security, Condos said.

The state notified the federal government of the incident on Aug. 24.

“We did see the words ‘Russian Federation,’ so we did feel that warranted us sending something to DHS,” Condos said. “In this particular instance it was a lone attack, or a lone scan, and we fended it off and we haven’t seen any signs of it since.”

Like most computers, the state’s election system faces thousands of “scans,” or attempts to find vulnerabilities, on a daily basis.

After receiving information about the August incident from Vermont, Homeland Security notified all 50 states about the scan, according to Condos.

DHS did not respond to requests for comment this week.

No actor has successfully been able to breach Vermont’s election system, Condos said.

“Obviously the systems we had in place worked. Our defenses were operational and strong,” he said. “Because of the robust cyber defenses we have in place, we are able to detect and block any malicious activity we have at this point.”

Condos noted that even if the voter registration system was somehow breached, only 24 hours’ worth of data would be lost, as the database is backed up on a daily basis.

During the 2016 election, intelligence officials said that Russians scanned the election systems of 21 states and successfully hacked one: Illinois.

Federal officials alerted those 21 states in September 2017 that they had been the target of Russian efforts. Vermont was not among those that were notified.

Condos is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and in March he testified in Washington that the groups that interfered with U.S. elections in 2016 would be back.

“The bad actors that tried to hack us yesterday are going to try a different way today and are going to be different tomorrow,” he said at the time.

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