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Get Help to Secure Election, US Urges Local Officials

  • VOA News

FILE - A voter casts his primary ballot in Hialeah, Fla. Paper ballots protect against electronic hackers, a Johns Hopkins University cryptography expert says.

FILE - A voter casts his primary ballot in Hialeah, Fla. Paper ballots protect against electronic hackers, a Johns Hopkins University cryptography expert says.

Federal officials are urging local election agencies to contact the Department of Homeland Security to receive help with cybersecurity before the November 8 election.

The Department of Homeland Security says 33 states and 11 counties have approached the department to improve their security systems ahead of the election.

“Time is a factor. There are only 29 days until Election Day,” Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Monday. The department says it can take up to three weeks to find and correct cyber vulnerabilities in local election agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security says its services include assessing risk and vulnerability, and scanning remotely for steps to improve security. It says it will provide state and local election officials with a report identifying vulnerabilities with online voter registration systems, election night reporting systems, and other internet-connected election systems.

Watch - Official: US Voting System Resilient to Cyberattacks

On Friday, the United States publicly accused Russia of launching a series of cyberattacks aimed at undermining the upcoming U.S. elections.

A statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said it is confident Russia directed the hacks of the Democratic National Committee in July, leaking thousands of emails that embarrassed the party in the days leading up to its national convention.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

Intelligence officials had suspected Russia of orchestrating the attack for several weeks, noting that Russia has used similar tactics and techniques to influence public opinion across Europe and Eurasia.

But the U.S. intelligence community decided to go public after newly uncovered information allowed them to reach a “higher degree of confidence,” a U.S. official told VOA.

“There’s an urgency here to release as much information as possible so the state and local authorities can fortify their [election] infrastructure,” a senior administration official told VOA on condition of anonymity. “We’re committed to making sure our election process is secure.”

A Kremlin spokesperson denied the allegations, telling Russian state media they are “rubbish” and “nonsense.”

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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