Federal officials now say Wisconsin’s voter registration system was not the target of a hacking attempt by Russians. Instead, systems tied to the Department of Workforce Development were the subject of a “scan” by what the Department of Homeland Security has told state officials was agents of the Russian government.
The update came just minutes after state information technology staff told members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission Tuesday that they could find no evidence to back up a phone call on Friday from DHS, which told agency staff that the voter system had been the subject of an unsuccessful attempt to gain access to it in July of last year.
Commission chair Mark Thomsen said he wasn’t sure what to think of the reversal. “Either someone was right on Friday and this memo today was a cover-up, or someone was wrong on Friday and we deserve an apology,” he said.
Thomsen said the commission would continue to pursue answers, but stressed that it would also focus on making sure Wisconsin’s election systems remain secure heading into the 2018 election cycle. “We have a long way to go to the elections and, between now and then, we have to establish that we are going to be secure,” he said. “If we don’t ask the questions now, come November, nobody is going to believe us.”
Members of the WEC did receive an update from staff on possible security measures that could be put in place, such as encrypting voter data or requiring a two-step verification system for clerks to gain access. The commission plans to examine the issue again when it meets in December.