CBSN

Jeh Johnson weighs in on hacks into states, local election systems

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2016. 

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday that one of the hacks into the systems of state and local election officials was successful and he advised how states can protect themselves ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Johnson said that there’s an open investigation into the source of the hacks on the Democratic National Committee, Colin Powell and others.

“We’re seeing, also, efforts at hacks into the systems of state and local election officials,” he said. “One of two of those have been successful into the online presence of state and local election officials. Exactly who did it is also still under investigation.”

It’s unclear which state he was referring to. Arizona and Illinois both experienced hacking attempts into their voter information systems over the last few months and CBS News has also reported that officials believe other states were affected as well.

One of the upsides, Johnson said, is that the country’s election systems are so decentralized because states and local governments run elections and have various programs and systems.

Asked if he could 100 percent guarantee a clean electoral process, Johnson said, “When have we ever had a clean electoral process?”

“There are cyber attacks, cyber intrusions in this country virtually every day, every hour,” he added.

Johnson said if voters go to the polls and their registration is missing, they can fill out a provisional ballot. He then explained what states can do now to keep their systems secure.

“It’s important now for state officials to look for vulnerabilities in their systems,” he said. “It’s important for anybody with a system online to protect against spearfishing. The most sophisticated, devastating cyber attacks occur because of a basic act of spearfishing.  Some employee opened up an email that they shouldn’t have and the bad actor gets into the system and can pose as virtually anybody.”

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.