Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Matt Roberts said they will re-examine the state’s systems to confirm nothing was breached. Nate Kelly/azcentral.com
The Russian government attempted to hack Arizona’s voter-registration system during the 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told state officials on Friday.
DHS officials said Arizona was among 21 states Russia attempted to hack, said Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Matt Roberts.
Roberts said federal officials notified Secretary of State Michele Reagan and other elections officials via phone Friday but said they provided few additional details.
“They didn’t say how. There’s going to be a detailed briefing in early October,” Roberts said. “But this is new information.”
Roberts said Reagan’s first question to federal officials at that meeting will be whether they are referring to a possible hack that already was discovered and reported out of Gila County last year, or if there were additional instances.
In August 2016, the FBI notified Arizona of a hacking attempt on the state voter-registration database after a Gila County employee opened an infected email attachment.
State officials took the voter-registration system off-line for about 10 days to make sure hackers hadn’t breached the system.
“We didn’t find that anything had been breached,” Roberts said. “Our security systems prevented any further access.”
State officials at the time indicated they thought Russia may have been behind that effort.
U.S. Sen. John McCain last fall said he thought Russia may have targeted Arizona because he is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Roberts said Arizona officials don’t believe Russia was successful at any efforts.
“The Arizona Department of Administration’s cyber security teams and our cyber security teams have not found any evidence of any data manipulation or any evidence that data was stolen,” Roberts said. “We don’t believe anything occurred as of yet.”
He said once they receive additional details in October and better know where to look, they will re-examine the state’s systems to confirm nothing was breached.
DHS confirmed to The Arizona Republic that it had notified secretaries of state of potential targeting it was aware of leading up to the 2016 election. But it declined to provide details, saying via email that it doesn’t publicly disclose cybersecurity information shared between the department and its partners.
“When we become aware of a potential victim, DHS notifies the owner or operator of the system, who in this case may not necessarily be the Secretary of State’s office,” the agency stated. “However, recognizing that state and local officials should be kept informed about cybersecurity risks to election infrastructure, we are working with them to refine our processes for sharing this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners.”
The email went on to say that it would keep details confidential and let each state reveal information it deemed relevant to the public.
Roberts said Reagan is frustrated that it has taken many months for federal officials to give details to Arizona elections officials.
“The secretary, as we know, is extremely concerned with the security of Arizona’s voter data,” Roberts said. “Anytime there is information that isn’t being shared related to our own cyber security, it’s a problem.”
He said federal officials did admit during the call that they should have done a better job informing targeted states.
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