DHS was wrong about Russians targeting elections in two states

A story broke on Friday that the Department of Homeland Security had informed 21 states that there was an attempt by Russian-linked individuals to hack their election infrastructure during the 2016 presidential contest.

But as with most stories about Russian hacking, DHS had gotten it at least partly wrong.  Two of the states mentioned, California and Wisconsin, did not have their election systems targeted.  Instead, other state networks were at risk.

Daily Caller:

The DHS notified 21 states including California and Wisconsin that Russian-linked individuals had tried to target either voter registration files or public election sites. The DHS is now claiming that these hackers targeted the California Department of Technology and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

"The work of our intelligence agencies is critical in defending against cyber threats. I remain committed to a partnership with DHS and other intelligence agencies, however, elections officials and the American public expect and deserve timely and accurate information," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement Wednesday.

Mark Thomsen, chairman of Wisconsin's Elections Commission, said Tuesday, "Either they were right on Friday and this is a cover up, or they were wrong on Friday and we deserve an apology."

DHS spokesman Scott McConnell was rather unapologetic in a Tuesday statement to The Daily Caller.

"While we defer to each state whether to disclose the circumstance surrounding their networks, it's important to point out that discussions of specific IP addresses do not provide a complete picture of potential targeting activity. The Department stands by its assessment that Internet-connected networks in 21 states were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure," McConnell told TheDC.

His statement came before California's announcement and suggested the DHS was wrong about additional states. "DHS has made an effort to respond quickly to questions and requests for further information from states following Friday's calls, and today we provided additional information to a number of states, including Wisconsin," the spokesman said.

Obviously, this puts a far less sinister take on the attempts at hacking and raises questions as to just how many others of the remaining 19 states also did not have their electoral infrastructures hacked.

There is no doubt that a lot of hacking of American networks originates in Russia.  Hacking America is also done by China, North Korea, and probably dozens of other countries.

The question that should be occupying investigators is, was the hacking ordered by a government, or were there other actors with unknown motives at work?

There's no doubt that the Kremlin not only has its own cyber-warfare people, but that it also has access to hackers employed by Russian organized crime.  However, scant evidence has been released so far showing who the hackers in Russia were and who was giving them orders.  It appears that many in and out of government have jumped to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin is behind all the hacking (and Trump was colluding with him).

I certainly wouldn't put it past Putin to be involved.  And perhaps the FBI has other sources that point the finger at the Russian government.  But the case made so far has been unconvincing at best – and an embarrassment for the media, who, once again, are forced to issue a correction on their Russia stories.

A story broke on Friday that the Department of Homeland Security had informed 21 states that there was an attempt by Russian-linked individuals to hack their election infrastructure during the 2016 presidential contest.

But as with most stories about Russian hacking, DHS had gotten it at least partly wrong.  Two of the states mentioned, California and Wisconsin, did not have their election systems targeted.  Instead, other state networks were at risk.

Daily Caller:

The DHS notified 21 states including California and Wisconsin that Russian-linked individuals had tried to target either voter registration files or public election sites. The DHS is now claiming that these hackers targeted the California Department of Technology and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

"The work of our intelligence agencies is critical in defending against cyber threats. I remain committed to a partnership with DHS and other intelligence agencies, however, elections officials and the American public expect and deserve timely and accurate information," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement Wednesday.

Mark Thomsen, chairman of Wisconsin's Elections Commission, said Tuesday, "Either they were right on Friday and this is a cover up, or they were wrong on Friday and we deserve an apology."

DHS spokesman Scott McConnell was rather unapologetic in a Tuesday statement to The Daily Caller.

"While we defer to each state whether to disclose the circumstance surrounding their networks, it's important to point out that discussions of specific IP addresses do not provide a complete picture of potential targeting activity. The Department stands by its assessment that Internet-connected networks in 21 states were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure," McConnell told TheDC.

His statement came before California's announcement and suggested the DHS was wrong about additional states. "DHS has made an effort to respond quickly to questions and requests for further information from states following Friday's calls, and today we provided additional information to a number of states, including Wisconsin," the spokesman said.

Obviously, this puts a far less sinister take on the attempts at hacking and raises questions as to just how many others of the remaining 19 states also did not have their electoral infrastructures hacked.

There is no doubt that a lot of hacking of American networks originates in Russia.  Hacking America is also done by China, North Korea, and probably dozens of other countries.

The question that should be occupying investigators is, was the hacking ordered by a government, or were there other actors with unknown motives at work?

There's no doubt that the Kremlin not only has its own cyber-warfare people, but that it also has access to hackers employed by Russian organized crime.  However, scant evidence has been released so far showing who the hackers in Russia were and who was giving them orders.  It appears that many in and out of government have jumped to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin is behind all the hacking (and Trump was colluding with him).

I certainly wouldn't put it past Putin to be involved.  And perhaps the FBI has other sources that point the finger at the Russian government.  But the case made so far has been unconvincing at best – and an embarrassment for the media, who, once again, are forced to issue a correction on their Russia stories.

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