The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging state and local election officials to seek assistance from the federal government to fend off cyberattacks that could be used to manipulate the results of the November presidential elections.

The agency is ready to provide any assistance to help states secure their systems, if they request it, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, said in a statement Saturday. Threats are rising that criminals will use cyberattacks to try to disrupt the administration of U.S. elections, the agency said.

“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.”

Johnson’s statement is in response to a Sept. 28 letter from the top Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate to the National Association of State Election Directors, urging states to take advantage of public resources available to help them secure their systems.

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