DHS Downplays Hackers' Ability to Sway US Elections

Amid speculation that malicious state-sponsored hackers are trying to influence the upcoming US elections, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson downplayed the threat.

First and foremost, hackers of any stripe would find the ballot mechanisms almost impossible to conquer, he said at an event hosted by The Atlantic, thus limiting any direct influence over election counts.

“It would be very difficult through any sort of cyber intrusion to alter the ballot count, simply because it is so decentralized and so vast,” he said, pointing out just how many ballot machines there are out there, in every burg across the country. “It would be very difficult to alter the count.”

Yet, as has been seen with the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the leaking of Hillary’ Clinton’s emails, bad actors are quite capable of stealing data that could sway public opinion in favor of one candidate or another. For instance, just as the Democratic National Convention started up in Philadelphia, Wikileaks began publishing emails purportedly coming from DNC officials; more than 19,000 of them, in a searchable database. The missives show a distinct bias within the DNC for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her main rival in the primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Russia is believed to be behind the DNC hack. The FBI is also investigating hacks at election sites in Arizona and Illinois.

Johnson also responded to criticism on the part of some conservatives that the department was looking to take over the election security process and centralize its management.

“What we do in Homeland Security, in cybersecurity, is offer assistance,” he said. He added that the DHS has reached out to help election offices beef up their cyber-defenses, including offering details about how to share threat intelligence and other information.

Photo © rzoze19

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