Elections Security Officials Head to Capitol Hill Amid Warnings of Russian Meddling


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday that the 2018 midterms and future elections are "clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts", but she argued that her department has made key strides to prepare states to combat hacking. "If we have information to share on a real threat, we will do so".

However, Nielsen said homeland security officials are going ahead and telling state election officials about any imminent threats.

Nielsen said that more than half of US states have signed up for the agency's cyber scanning services created to detect potential weaknesses that could be targeted by hackers.

Homeland security officials revealed previous year that Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in 21 states in 2016.

As a result, Johnson said, the federal government did not move forward with the critical infrastructure plan until after the election. There is no evidence, however, that any vote tallies were changed. As of last month, just 14 states had requested risk assessments and 30 had asked for remote cyberscans of their networks, according to Homeland Security officials.

"I was expecting follow-up from a lot of journalists, and we never got that because everyone was focused on the campaign and that video, and that debate that Sunday", he added. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Nielsen said only about 20 officials of the eligible 150 have received such clearances so far.

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was prioritizing election cyber security above all other critical infrastructure it protects, such as the financial, energy and communications systems, the agency's chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And they agreed that more could be done by the Trump administration to deter Russian Federation and other actors from repeating or escalating their attacks.

The committee's co-chairman, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) lashed out at President Trump for allegedly not confronting Putin recently on the overwhelming evidence of Russian Federation wrongdoing.

He criticized President Trump for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to congratulate him on his election victory without raising the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential election.

The recommendations come as Congress is eyeing $380 billion in state grants for election security in a wide-ranging spending bill expected to be unveiled as soon as Wednesday.

State budgets vary and some rely more heavily on federal funds for required steps for securing their elections, like purging insecure election machines and purchasing new machines that leave an auditable paper trail. The bill will reportedly provide $380 million in grants to states for new technology to guard against cyberattacks, as well as millions of dollars in additional funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat possible Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.