Nearly Every State Has Asked for Federal Help to Protect Voting Systems From Hacks

They are seeking help protect election systems from hacks.

ByABC News
October 31, 2016, 6:07 PM

— -- Nearly every state has asked the Department of Homeland Security to help protect election systems from hacks, according to the latest tally by DHS.

With only eight days until Election Day, 46 states and 35 county or local election agencies have reached out to the department for assistance. Only 33 states and 11 localities had asked for help as of Oct. 10, 2016.

Time is of the essence for states that need assistance since it can take up to two weeks from the time DHS receives authorization to run the scans and identify vulnerabilities. It can then take at least a week to mitigate any vulnerabilities that are found, according to DHS.

Homeland Security offers so-called "cyber hygiene scans" on systems linked to the internet, as well as risk and vulnerability assessments for local agencies.

Earlier this month, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed Russia for recent cyber-attacks that compromised emails of political organizations in the U.S., such as the Democratic National Committee.

At the time, DHS acknowledged that some states had recently seen "scanning and probing" of their election-related systems, which, in most cases, originated from servers operated by a Russian company.

As ABC News first reported last month, hackers tried to infiltrate voter registration systems in nearly half of the states across the country.

Foreign hackers have attemmpted to gain access to voter-related information in four states by targeting not only government systems but also by breaking into computers associated with private contractors hired to handle voter information, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

In August, the FBI issued a warning to state governments noting that hackers infiltrated the Illinois State Board of Elections two months earlier and then tried to breach election systems in Arizona.

Information on voters in Florida was also compromised by hackers, sources told ABC News. ABC News could not determine the fourth state whose voters had some of their information exposed.

State election systems in states across the United States have continued to come under attack by hackers into the fall. Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against election-related systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

"There have been a variety of scanning activities, which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities, as well as some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases beyond those we knew about in July and August," FBI Director James Comey told the House Judiciary Committee at the end of September. "There's no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around."

Mike Levine contributed to this story.

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