FBI attempts damage control with new election hacking policy

From now on, the FBI will notify state officials if elections have been hacked.


After being heavily criticized for not providing a robust system against election hacking, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced a change in its policy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

What's different now? — If an election system seems to have been compromised by bad actors, the FBI will notify state officials in order to tackle the issue. Previously, the FBI would only notify the direct victims of such a breach, including counties where election equipment came under attack. But it didn't reach out to state officials, and that lack of communication unsettled many on Capitol Hill.

Especially in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, reports of Russian interference and influence left many Congress officials, on both sides of the aisle, concerned about election transparency and data privacy.

In previous instances of criticism, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz blasted the FBI and other agencies for what he viewed was a complete failure to properly and adequately notify him and his state about voter registration systems getting attacked.

Incomplete picture — The FBI's new policy comes with a statement that is part contrition and part vow to do better. According to The Wall Street Journal, a senior FBI official stated, "As we approach 2020, we took a look at how we were doing business with a specific eye toward increasing visibility." The official admitted that the previous policy to only inform direct victims and not state officials created "incomplete knowledge of the election security landscape within their state."

Too little, too late — While the FBI might be patting itself on its back for the new shift in policy, some still worry it's just not enough given the series of election hacking incidents witnessed in the recent years. One of those critics, Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy voiced as much to The Wall Street Journal.

"All of this is welcome news, but it is not enough," Murphy lamented. "I will continue to push for federal officials to provide more information to the voting public when foreign powers interfere with our democracy."