Russian hackers targeted Washington election systems, Homeland Security confirms

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said when her office discovered suspicious IP addresses last year, they had a “high suspicion” the addresses belonged to Russian hackers.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed those suspicions today when representatives officially notified Wyman that Russian hackers attempted — but failed — to access state election systems prior to the 2016 general election.

“What they confirmed was what we already knew … Russian hackers were scanning for vulnerabilities in our system,” Wyman said during an interview at the Bellevue Reporter office when the news broke, adding that the election systems have been in operation since 2008.

The state’s chief elections officer said when they first discovered the IP addresses, her office notified the FBI. Homeland Security officials said 21 states had been targets of Russian hackers, but couldn’t confirm if Washington was one of those states until today.

“We were confident that they hadn’t gotten through the firewall,” Wyman noted.

She said her office has a big job to do.

“Like anyone on the internet, the biggest challenge is we have to get it right 24/7, 365 days a year,” she said. “A hacker only has to get it right once.”

However, her office is “doing everything we can, utilizing the latest software, best practices and security measures, to keep Washington’s elections safe, reliable and accessible to our citizens,” Wyman said in a press release.

More details about the state’s election system security measures can be found on the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.wa.gov/elections/System-Security.aspx.

Staff writer Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.


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