Russian operatives compromised election systems in seven states in 2016

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Russian operatives compromised election systems in seven states in 2016

Intelligence requested by President Obama in his final weeks in office shows seven states that analysts believed were compromised prior to the 2016 election- including Alaska- according to NBC News.

While officials in Washington told several of the states ahead of the elections that foreign entities were probing their systems, none were told the Russian government was behind it, NBC News reported, citing unnamed state officials.

Three intelligence sources told NBC that the states whose databases or websites were compromised are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin. In considering the systems "compromised", NBC News reported, the intelligence community believed Russians had gained entry into them.

But Tyler Q. Houlton, the acting press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement, that the report "is not accurate and is actively undermining efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to work in close partnership with state and local governments to protect the nation's election systems from foreign actors".

He said federal officials maintained in the briefing that communication with state officials is crucial to defending against any election interference. That fragmented system could be seen as a benefit, because hackers can't compromise the whole system with one attack. "This attempt was not in any way successful and Florida's online elections databases and voting systems remained secure", said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for the agency that oversees Florida's election system.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security called the report "factually inaccurate and misleading".

The Trump administration contacted election officials in all 50 states in September 2017 to advise them whether or not their systems had been targeted.

Bahnke said she attended a secure briefing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DHS along with other state elections officials last week, which required her to get a temporary security clearance. Earlier this month, the agency pushed back against a report from the news outlet that claimed Russian hackers had "successfully penetrated" USA voter systems before the election.

A major network is reporting that Wisconsin and six other states had websites or voter information systems compromised by Russian spies.

Tuesday, Josie Bahnke, the director of Alaska's division of elections, released a statement saying the state had no information to suggest the earlier-announced attack was successful. The department has been clear and consistent that we are aware of 21 states targeted by Russian government cyber actors leading up to the 2016 election.

"It's got nothing to do with actually changing a vote, but you try to get into these different systems, because people don't understand necessarily how all of these pieces are very disconnected", Manfra said.

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