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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

DHS, FBI rebut reports about hacked voter data on Russian forum


The Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity arm and the FBI said on Tuesday they've seen no cyberattacks on voter registration databases this year, following news reports about Michigan voter data appearing on a Russian hacking forum.

The agencies also said they'd not seen attacks "on any systems involving voting," according to the statement. "Information on U.S. elections is going to grab headlines, particularly if it as cast as foreign interference. Early, unverified claims should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism."

The source of the confusion: Journalist Julia Ioffe tweeted that Russian news media had discovered the data about 7.6 million Michigan voters on the hacker platform, along with voter information from swing states like Florida and North Carolina. The tweet generated 11,000 retweets and 11,000 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Michigan Department of State tweeted a response before DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI did. "Public voter information in Michigan and elsewhere is available to anyone through a FOIA request," the response says. "Our system has not been hacked."

Ioffe subsequently acknowledged the Michigan response, but by then the original tweet had spread widely. "A lot of it has been floating around for a while," she wrote, referring to the voter data, adding that "it’s just unclear what these hackers are using it for."

Multiple news outlets also wrote about the Russian journalists' discoveries, albeit before Ioffe tweeted about it.

Context: The CISA and FBI statement is consistent with what they have said this election season.

It also aligns with the remarks of secretaries of state last week, with Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams telling the House Homeland Security Committee that hackers were "rattling our doorknobs" but there haven't been any breaches.

What's next: "My main takeaway: it’s going to be critical over the next few months to maintain our cool and not spin up over every claim," tweeted CISA Director Chris Krebs. "The last measure of resilience is the American Voter."



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