More states request help from Dept. of Homeland Security against election cyber threats

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ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 18: U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivers remarks at CyberCon 2015 November 18, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. Johnson spoke on the recent attacks in Paris and also the ongoing refugee crisis during his remarks. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — More states and local election boards have asked the Department of Homeland Security to help with cybersecurity, the department announced Monday night.

The total, which has been steadily rising in recent weeks, has reached 33 state and 11 county or local election agencies, DHS said.

More than two dozen states were known to have requested help before the updated tally.

DHS has been urging states to take advantage of its resources, which include scanning systems for vulnerabilities and recommendations for improving cybersecurity on election and voter registration systems.

The update from Secretary Jeh Johnson warned those on the fence to make a decision.

“Time is a factor. There are only 29 days until election day, and it can take up to two weeks from the time we receive authorization to run the scans and identify vulnerabilities,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “It can then take at least an additional week for state and local election officials to mitigate any vulnerabilities on systems that we may find.”

While it would be extremely difficult for any hackers to affect the outcome of the presidential election by attacking voting machines, experts say voter registration databases could be more vulnerable to tampering.

Dozens of states have experienced attempts to access those registries, officials said, and roughly 90,000 of Illinois’ voter records were stolen by hackers, though no data was altered in the system.

The US government took the unprecedented step Friday of publicly blaming the Russian government for hacking into Democratic Party-affiliated groups in an effort to meddle in the electio