A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official warned a Santa Fe, N.M., gathering of secretaries of state to beware of phishing attempts that might target their state and local election systems and workers.

"We know that phishing is how a significant number of state and local government networks become exploited," an ABC News report cited Geoff Hale, director of the DHS Election Security Initiative, as saying. "Understanding your organization's susceptibility to phishing is one of the biggest things you can do."

Some of the officials present, like Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, already have identified the dangers presented by phishing, particularly when the targets are employees who may not be properly trained up.

"If they get into the courthouse, they can then get into the county auditor, which is our elections folks — and that's not a good thing," Pate said in the report.