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Russia Targeted Connecticut's Online Voter Registration System: Feds

Russian agents attempted to breach Connecticut's election system before the 2016 election, that's according to the federal government, which says 20 other states were also targeted.

"Some Russian agents tried to probe our website at the Secretary of the State's office which has to do with online voter registration," said Connecticut Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates.

The Department of Homeland Security informed all 21 states on Friday.

Connecticut officials say they were scanned but not breached. 

"Everyone in Connecticut needs to know their vote is safe and secure. Our systems worked. Our defenses are up. They tried to hack, we pushed them back, and we're going to be one step ahead of the bad guys," said Bates.

Bates says that hackers tried to get into the website and got nowhere close to voter registration data thanks to perimeter cyber security defenses. He stressed that voting machines were not affected.

"Connecticut voting machines are not hooked up online, so that's the good news. Your vote is safe. It counts and it's secure. The challenge we have is that Russian agents were looking for weaknesses in our cyber security. We repelled them, but we're on notice now," said Bates.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. We're going to see a lot more sophistication with these attacks," said Lon Seidman. Seidman is a tech expert who has a consumer technology channel,

Seidman says Friday's development is not surprising, adding that the modern-day cyber warfare is one that many countries engage in, including the US.

"Everyone is trying to see where the vulnerabilities are because if you are able to break in and disrupt a substantial amount of infrastructure, the power grid, the voting systems you can actually create a lot of damage in another country without even having to fire a shot," said Seidman.

"[Hackers] just have to be lucky once, and we have to be right all the time. And we're going to be focused that we are," said Bates.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is convening a cyber security task force to pull together state and local leaders. State officials say they need Congress to appropriate money for cyber security for all states to continue staying ahead of hackers.

And experts warn that hackers don't just focus on a system, they'll focus on individuals who might have access to important data.

"People really need to take this seriously. And even if you think you're not an important person, to the Russians you might end up being that way, especially if your computer that you use at work happens to have access to data that is important to people. It's a matter of not clicking on attachments that come through even if they look like they're coming from someone you know. It always starts off very innocently with a simple mouse click and before you know it you have an international incident," said Seidman.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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