DHS Official: States Need More Funds To Replace Outdated Election Systems

A top Department of Homeland Security official told a House panel Wednesday that states do not have enough funds to replace outdated voting systems ahead of the midterm elections in November.

Christopher Krebs, DHS undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, said that all 50 states’ election systems may have been subjected to cyber scanning by Russian actors in the 2016 election furthering the need to replace vulnerable voting infrastructure.

Christopher Krebs, Undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS

Christopher Krebs, Undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS

“There are challenges from a procurement perspective. There’s also the challenge for it’s frankly not enough money to transition that equipment,” Krebs told the House Homeland Security Committee.

The FY '18 omnibus spending bill included $380 million to assist states with replacing old systems, which Krebs said may not be enough to transition to new equipment and be used towards information sharing and cyber programs.

“Not all states are similarly resourced and that is going to be a challenge going forward. And that is probably the greatest opportunity for policy discussion in this body,” Krebs said. “I would not, though, assume that all that money is going to replace out of date equipment.”

DHS officials said last year that Russian actors were able to infiltrate election systems in 21 states.

Krebs on Tuesday told the lawmakers that DHS now has full visibility into all election networks and every state could have potentially been scanned by cyber actors.

“I would suspect that Russia scanned all 50 states and five territories and the District of Columbia. Scanning, it happens every day. It’s an automated process. I think the 21 number, that’s based on what we were able to see,” Krebs said.

Krebs said that both DHS and the intelligence community have determined that Russian actors are not posing the same cyber threat to try infiltrate election infrastructure in 2018 as was seen in 2016. Officials have noted a continued presence of operations to spread misinformation during the 2018 midterms, according to Krebs.

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