Utah has faced an escalation of foreign hacker attacks since Mitt Romney was named the state's Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, according to the Utah official overseeing the state's 2018 midterm elections.
“We knew that alone might make us more of a target,” Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox told the Salt Lake Tribune this week.
But Cox said he was confident the state's investment in updating voting machines and bolstering cybersecurity safety measures would protect it from incursions by Russian, Chinese, and other adversaries.
“We have a paper trail for every vote that is cast in the state,” Cox told the newspaper. “We are doing more than we’ve ever done before. We’re doing lots of things that we’ve never done before.”
Cox's comments come as local media reported assaults on Utah state government websites and election systems had ballooned to as a high as 1 billion in a single day. His remarks also follow a June report by NPR-affiliate KUER 90.1 that indicated an uptick in anti-Romney chatter on social media associated with Russia-linked accounts.
Romney was ridiculed by many during his 2012 presidential campaign against former Democratic President Barack Obama for suggesting during a CNN interview that Russia was the country's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."
The New Yorker reported in March this year that the Kremlin thwarted Romney's bid to become President Trump's secretary of state by asking the administration through "unspecified channels" to appoint someone sympathetic to Russian interests.
Romney is vying with Democratic challenger Jenny Wilson to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in the upper chamber after the November election.