FBI Refutes Media Reports of Russian Cyber Attacks on Voter Registration Databases

FBI Refutes Media Reports of Russian Cyber Attacks on Voter Registration Databases
People cast their ballot for the presidential primary at the South Whittier Community Resource Center in Whittier, Calif., on March 3, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Masooma Haq

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) said on Tuesday they've seen no cyberattacks on voter registration databases this year, countering claims made in news reports about voter data appearing on a Russian hacking forum.

The agencies, in a joint statement, said they have not seen attacks "on any systems involving voting."

"Information on U.S. elections is going to grab headlines, particularly if it is cast as foreign interference. Early, unverified claims should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism."

The statement came after Julia Ioffe, a correspondent for GQ magazine, wrote in a since-deleted tweet that a Russian news outlet claimed Russian hackers had obtained the personal details of more than 7 million Michigan voters, along with voter information from swing states like Florida and North Carolina.
The report was circulated by various media and reporters, including Ioffe. The Michigan Department of State responded to the claim in a statement, saying it was false.
"Public voter information in Michigan and elsewhere are available to anyone through a FOIA request," the department wrote in a tweet, tagging Ioffe. "Our system has not been hacked."
On Sept. 1, Ioffe acknowledged the department's response, writing in a tweet: "A lot of it has been floating around (referring to the public data) for a while. It’s just unclear what these hackers are using it for, other than scamming the State Department.”
Meanwhile, in response to the uncertainty that voters feel about the election and cybersecurity, CISA Director Chris Krebs said in a tweet: "My main takeaway: it’s going to be critical over the next few months to maintain our cool and not spin up over every claim." He continued, "The last measure of resilience is the American Voter."
The agency said it has made voter security a priority for the 2020 general election. In July 2019, the CISA released a written statement regarding a classified briefing to Congress on election security.

“Election security is a top priority for the United States Government. Today we shared with Congress how we continue to bring the full strength, capabilities, and expertise of our departments and agencies to identify and defend against threats to the United States,” the statement said.

“Just like our successful, whole-of-government approach to securing the 2018 elections, we will work together with our Federal, state, local, and private sector partners as well as our foreign allies to protect the 2020 elections and maintain transparency with the American public about our efforts.”

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