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cyber insecurity

The Kremlin 'successfully penetrated' some state voter rolls in 2016, DHS cybersecurity chief says

Last September, the Department of Homeland Security informed 21 states that the Russian government had targeted their voter registration system before the 2016 election, and on Wednesday, the DHS's head of cybersecurity, Jeanette Manfra, told NBC News that of the 21 states, "an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated." She did not name any of the states, since the report is classified, but she said she has "no doubt" it was the Russian government, not just Russians, behind the cyberattack.

The Homeland Security Department was charged with protecting America's electoral system in January 2017, when outgoing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson designated it federally protected "critical infrastructure," like the electrical grid. NBC News reached out to the 21 targeted states, and five of them said they hadn't been attacked. Manfra said she stands by the list as a "snapshot in time with the visibility that the department had at that time." She also disagreed with Johnson's assessment that states aren't adequately preparing for the 2018 and 2020 elections. "I would say they have all taken it seriously," she said.

Some states told NBC News that the federal government had not told them about specific threats, citing classification issues — Manfra said state officials will get clearance soon — while other states did not want the feds involved in their voting system. Johnson told NBC News that such concerns are "naive" and "irresponsible to the people that [states are] supposed to serve."

There is no evidence that Russia tampered with any voting rolls in the 2016 election, federal officials say. But in a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, 79 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned that the U.S. electoral system is vulnerable to hacking.