WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems in 2016:
“It's unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election to notify states that their elections systems were targeted, but I'm relieved that DHS has acted upon our numerous requests and is finally informing the top elections officials in all 21 affected states that Russian hackers tried to breach their systems in the run up to the 2016 election.
“We have to do better in the future. Our elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and DHS needs to notify states and localities in real-time when their systems are targeted. While I understand that DHS detects thousands of attempted cyber attacks daily, I expect the top election officials of each state to be made aware of all such attempted intrusions, successful or not, so that they can strengthen their defenses -- just as any homeowner would expect the alarm company to inform them of all break-in attempts, even if the burglar doesn't actually get inside the house.
“All 50 states need to be proactively strengthening the security of their election systems in the face of this threat.
“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue our bipartisan investigation into what happened in 2016, and we will continue to determine what steps we need to take to stop the next attack on our democracy.”
On June 20, 2017, Sen. Warner wrote to then-DHS Secretary John Kelly, pressing for DHS to disclose additional info on state hacking publicly. At a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence the following day, DHS disclosed for the first time that Russian probing or attempted hacking impacted 21 states in the 2016 election. On June 26, Sen. Warner, together with SSCI Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), wrote to all 50 states, via the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors, asking them to publicly disclose to voters whether their state has been a victim of malicious cyber activity.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has passed an intelligence authorization bill that includes several provisions designed to address the targeting of election systems, including a provision requiring DHS to grant appropriate clearances to state elections officials so that they can receive timely and specific threat information, which was a significant issue identified by the Committee in the course of our investigation. The authorization bill will also require DHS to submit to Congress more information on any cyber attacks or attempted cyber attacks by foreign governments on election infrastructure in states and localities in connection with the 2016 presidential election – so that Congress can help states and localities develop policies and best practices to protect elections systems in 2018 and beyond. An additional provision requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), in conjunction with the FBI, CIA, and NSA, to “develop a whole-of-government strategy for countering the threat of Russian cyber attacks and attempted cyber attacks against electoral systems and processes in the United States.”