As the 2020 presidential election nears, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Thursday that it would start notifying states when local election systems are hacked in an effort to make elections more secure. Before, the bureau would only notify the owners of the breached equipment of cyberattacks, which were typically counties and local governments with less capacity to respond.
The FBI’s announcement comes after months of criticism from lawmakers and election officials who feared the agency was failing to brief states of possible threats, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. In a call with reporters, an FBI official also said the bureau will not notify election technology vendors of breaches.
“Cyber intrusions affecting election infrastructure have the potential to cause significant negative impacts on the integrity of elections,” an FBI press release said. “Understanding that mitigation of such incidents often hinges on timely notification.”
Last year, former special counsel Robert Mueller released his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Mueller report revealed that, in 2016, a Florida county election network was breached by Russian hackers, although they were unable to alter voting tallies. When the report was released in 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had reportedly still not been briefed by the FBI on the incident, and requested a briefing in the wake of the publication.
“Decisions surrounding notification continue to be dependent on the nature and breadth of an incident and the nature of the infrastructure impacted,” the FBI said in a press release.