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After hack, Arizona working to keep its elections database secure

Election system hacks
Election system hacks 02:44

PHOENIX -- The hacking attempt on Arizona’s voter database started in rural Gila County when an elections worker opened an email attachment.

Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan  CBS News

Michelle Reagan, Arizona’s secretary of state, said it was malware meant to attack servers holding the voter information of 4 million people.

Reagan was alerted by the FBI, and experts believe the Russian government is to blame. 

She said she was shocked and dismayed when she first heard about the breach.

“We’ve never had to worry about foreign invaders coming in and trying to mess with our confidence and our election system,” Reagan said.

Arizona, Illinois, Florida and nearly two dozen other states have seen similar scanning, probing or breaches of their election systems.

Russian hacking 01:48

“The Russians have a different doctrine than we do,” said Jim Lewis, who has advised the U.S. government on cyber attacks for more than a decade.

“They’re using information as a way to achieve their political goals. They don’t need the Red Army anymore; They have the internet,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials have denied involvement, calling U.S. accusations “nonsense.”

“The biggest thing we were worried about was did they take any information?” Reagan said.

Reagan said she is confident the voter database wasn’t breached. But the attacks continue.

CIA director on hacking 01:23

Arizona officials said there were 192,000 intrusion attempts in September alone. About 11,000 of them posed a serious threat.

Reagan and 32 other secretaries of state have asked the Department of Homeland Security for help.

“I liken it to when you’re being invaded by Russia, you don’t call in your National Guard. At some point you have to say, ‘I need the Army,’” Reagan said.

Changing actual vote totals is difficult because few voting machines are connected to the internet. But throwing confusion into an already contentious election is probably exactly what the Russians wanted.

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