Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have recently had their voter registration systems targeted by foreign hackers, and four of those systems have successfully been breached, sources tell ABC News.
That amount of targeting and actual infiltration into state election-related systems is significantly larger than the U.S. government has been willing to acknowledge.
Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against more than 20 state election systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
“There’s no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around,” FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday, without offering any more specifics.
He acknowledged there have been “some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases” since August, when the FBI issued a bulletin to state governments warning that hackers had infiltrated the Illinois State Board of Elections and tried to breach election systems in Arizona.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Comey said the FBI is trying to figure out “just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”
He emphasized that voter registration databases -— not the voting system itself — are being targeted by hackers.
“This is very different than the vote system in the United States, which is very, very hard for someone to hack into because it’s so clunky and dispersed,” Comey said, adding that states should be in contact with the Department of Homeland Security and “make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on.”
During a separate House hearing on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said 18 states had reached out to his department seeking assistance in protecting their election systems.
Meanwhile, another top Homeland Security official and the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission both said a cyberattack could not change the outcome of the 2016 election.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Mike Levine and Pierre Thomas