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US Elections 2016: Hackers Wage Attack On Election Systems In 20 States

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After Illinois and Arizona were targeted by Russian hackers in August, up to 20 states seem to have also been affected by the breach in the previous months.

Investigations were conducted and the FBI has released a flash alert, but the hackers were not yet identified. While accessing documents per se doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion that votes can be manipulated in any way. When registering, voters give personal information, which mostly are available to the public anyway.

There are increasing concerns that foreign hackers could influence the voters' confidence in the U.S. elections. However, the federal officials are optimistic. Given the very decentralized voting system and the small proportions of electronic voting, officials say that modifying the results of the elections is virtually impossible, no matter how professional the hackers.

Because of the lack of authorization to speak publicly on the matter, the official spoke to the Associated Press under anonymity conditions. According to this official, it is not clear whether the attacks were national or international, and neither were the motives behind it.

As the investigation goes on, 19 states expressed their interests in improving their cyber systems related to the scan of key websites, while FBI Director James Comey expressed searching "very, very hard" on the possibility of Russian hackers interfering with the U.S. elections on Nov. 8. The scanning activities were called an "informational call related to elections security," while the anonymous source mentioned a local elections website is being investigated.

Only four of the 20 affected states manifested interest in the Direction of Homeland Security offering to conduct a larger investigation. However, as the elections are no farther than a few weeks away, the investigation will most likely only be conducted on one of the four states.

After the hacking in August, two bills were proposed requiring voting systems to be dramatically improved when it comes to infrastructure. The bills also aim to put a limit on acquiring voting systems that do not give out paper ballots. It's unlikely that the bills be passed in time for the elections in November, but they will at least be a premise of future significant systematic improvements of the electoral system.

After the identification of 16 sectors as critical infrastructures in 2013, the Homeland Security secretary's prerogative was to intervene and prioritize these sectors. Among the sectors that were believed to be in critical are energy and financial services, as well as health care and communication.

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