MN Secretary of State Cries Wolf in Russia Hacking Release

Secretary of State Steve Simon opens Minnesota 2016 Electoral College proceedings. (Photo The Uptake)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Friday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon announced Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by the Russian government in the days leading up to the November election won by President Donald Trump.

“DHS [Department of Homeland Security] confirmed to my office that there was no breach and no attempt to breach Minnesota’s election system,” Simon wrote in a statement.  

According to Reuters, Wisconsin, a battleground state in the Midwest was targeted by Russian hackers who attempted to gain access to the voter registration system. Election results from POLITICO show Trump carrying Wisconsin by 27,000 votes, or about 1 percent.

The attempt to undermine Minnesota’s election process was not as serious according to Simon.

“The entities scanned IP addresses associated with the Secretary of State’s website for vulnerabilities, but attempted no further action,” Simon wrote. “Our system had previously identified these IP addresses scanning our system and blocked them.”

Hacking attempts have not been a new occurrence within the government. “Scans of Internet facing IPs and websites are as commonplace as leaves falling from trees in the Fall,” State Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton), who works as a cyber-security consultant outside of the legislature told Alpha News. “I witness my clients being scanned 24-hours a day from sources including China, India, Lebanon, Mexico, Singapore, and many other source countries. Scanning cannot be stopped nor is scanning by itself considered a serious threat. Attempting to block select non-US source IP ranges is not a realistic solution because threat actors will simply use a compromised system located within the US as a jump box to continue their activity thus making their source IP come from within the US.”

In 2016, Reuters reports a White House audit determined there were more than 77,000 “‘cyber incidents’ like data thefts or other security breaches.”

In 2014, Deseret News reported various government networks in Utah were attacked up to 20 million per day. In 2016, KUTV reported Utah receiving up to 300 million attacks a day.

Simon acknowledged attempts to breach state servers happens regularly.

“Scanning from outside entities is commonplace and happens every day, which is why I continue to believe the most serious challenge to the integrity of our election system is the threat of outside forces, including foreign governments, who seek to disrupt and undermine our elections,” Simon wrote.

“Secretary Simon is wrong,” Lucero said. “Citing the blocking of non-US based source IPs as any kind of real solution is to demonstrate non-understanding of the true nature of how technology and threats operate. Clearly the most serious challenge to the integrity of our election system is domestic based voter fraud allowed to perpetuate as a direct result of continued minimal requirements citizens be required to prove eligibility before casting a vote. Modern technology capabilities make same-day registration voter fraud extremely easy.”

The Secretary of State’s office also notes in the press release that Simon is continuing his work to bolster the security of the Secretary of State’s online presence with plans to “modernize, update, and improve the stability and security of the Statewide Voter Registration System,” the release states.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.