Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has urged states to take advantage of federal government protection to secure their election systems before November 8:

“These challenges aren’t just in the future — they are here today,” Johnson said in the statement. “In recent months, malicious cyber-actors have been scanning a large number of state systems, which could be a preamble to attempted intrusions. In a few cases, we have determined that malicious actors gained access to state voting-related systems.”

A few days ago, a DHS official said hackers targeted about 21 states.

Politico reported:

The DHS official — speaking on background because of the subject’s sensitive nature — explained that hackers of all stripes are constantly testing the digital defenses of every state’s public-facing election systems. But in 20-plus states, the agency determined that these intrusion attempts have become what DHS calls “probing of concern.”

“It’s reached a threshold of some concern,” the official told POLITICO, cautioning that the majority of states were not experiencing successful intrusions.

This official also told Politico that CNN and the Associated Press “misunderstood the nature of the cyber threat” in their stories on Friday. But secretaries of states have said their respective states have flagged “potential nefarious digital activity,” but hardly any of it “actually leads to a breach:

“The fact someone pinged it doesn’t mean there’s a breach,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in an interview Friday.

Williams said his state wasn’t among the ones that had experienced a “probing of concern.” But, he added, it’s not uncommon for hackers to make a run at his data trove.

“The fact someone passes by, or runs a quick test on the database and doesn’t get through, that happens every day with every major database,” he said.

Concerns over election security peaked in August when “hackers successfully infiltrated one state board of election and targeted another” in Illinois and Arizona.

The FBI provided “eight separate IP addresses” and thinks they may have been linked since the hackers used one address in bothe attacks. The department recognized one address since it “surfaced before in Russian criminal underground hacker forums.” Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer for cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, told Yahoo News that “the method of attack on one of the state election systems — including the types of tools used by the hackers to scan for vulnerabilities and exploit them — appears to resemble methods used in other suspected Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks, including one just this month on the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

However, the tools are not very sophisticated, but “very effective,” which is why “national governments or their proxies” use them.