One week before the 2018 midterm elections, not quite half of U.S. states have taken up the Department of Homeland Security’s offer to perform an assessment of their elections systems’ susceptibility to vote hacking, ABC News reported Tuesday.
> Under the department's National Protection and Programs Directorate, the agency branch that coordinates cyber protection of U.S. infrastructure, a team of DHS officials are prepared to examine statewide election systems. They can check for cybersecurity vulnerabilities and run in-person exercises like phishing tests to ensure election officials are prepared to guard against attempts to hack their email accounts.
> The Department of Homeland Security has already provided or is scheduled to provide the service, which is free for states that request it, to only 21 states, a department spokesman told ABC News, concerning election experts who fear some states may not be aware of potential vulnerabilities.
American officials have been on high alert after Russian interference was discovered during the 2016 election, which ABC News notes included the attempted hacking of more than a dozen voter registration systems.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said her department is prepared to assist states with their efforts to shore up their systems, but she also noted that there are other methods officials can use to accomplish the task.
> “Some are hiring third parties, some are working with us,” she told a Washington Post cybersecurity summit earlier this month. “There are some states that are utilizing the National Guard. There’s a variety of ways in which you can bring your capability and capacity up to speed. Each state is doing it a little bit differently.”
> The department spokesperson declined to say which states have and have not undergone the assessments. ABC News asked election officials in all 50 states whether they have participated, and 19 states -- Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin -- confirmed that they had, while several others declined to comment.