Screengrab from the online voter registration system within the Secretary of the State section of ct.gov (ct.gov)

HARTFORD, CT — The state of Connecticut was one of 21 states the Department of Homeland Security contacted Friday to let them know that Russian hackers targeted their systems during the 2016 election.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Friday that even though the DHS confirmed the attempted Russian intrusion into the online voter registration database, she said it was stopped by the website’s security system.

The online voter registration database is the state’s front-facing website application for voter registration. It’s not attached to the centralized voter database or to the vote tabulators in the polling places. The information put into the system from an outside user would still have to be verified by the Registrar of Voters in a specific town before a name could be added to the voter list.

“This successful defense of the integrity of our online voter registration system is good news for Connecticut, but it underlines the threat posed by foreign agents seeking to disrupt U.S. elections and sow the seeds of doubt in the integrity of our electoral process,” Merrill said. “It is clear that Congress needs to act swiftly, both to investigate and publicize Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and to appropriate the necessary funds so that our state and local governments have the resources they need to adequately protect our election infrastructure.”

While the state of Connecticut was alerted by the Department of Homeland Security last September of a suspicious IP address, DHS waited until Friday to inform them that they suspected the Russian government was behind the attempted intrusion. Last year, the DHS simply sought more information.

It’s not unusual for the Secretary of the State’s website to receive probes from those who would seek to do harm or infiltrate the system.

In total, Connecticut government websites receive a total of 4.8 billion visits per month and about 42 percent of that traffic is “not authorized” and is subsequently blocked. That’s about 2 billion visits being blocked because they are arriving from known malicious IP addresses or threat signatures.

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said it should not have taken the federal government as long as it did to share information with the targeted states.

“Attempts to hack our elections are not a hoax they are a real threat but one we can and should address now not later,” Hobert Flynn said. “This is clearly a threat that is not going away and it is long past time for governments at the federal, state, and local level to take proactive steps to safeguard the integrity of our elections.”