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State Board of Elections tries to ease fears about Russian hacking

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018


The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

Three senior intelligence officials told NBC News that the intelligence community believed the states as of January 2017 were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin. […]

While numerous state election officials told NBC News that the Department of Homeland Security has been stepping up communications with them, many say they’re worried they are still not getting enough information from Washington. […]

Illinois itself had detected a “malicious cyberattack” on its voter registration system in the summer of 2016 and reported it to DHS, saying its voter rolls had been accessed but nothing had been altered. It is the only state to acknowledge actual compromise.

* The Illinois State Board of Elections held a press conference today about the issue.

Board spokesman Matt Dietrich said he’s received “numerous calls” from voters who are worried that the Russians going to be changing votes at the precinct level.

“The Russian hacking that you’re hearing about is something that’s very much different than what we consider to be the integrity of the actual voting systems at the polling places,” Dietrich said. No votes were changed, no registrations were changed during the 2016 election, he emphasized.

But Dietrich said the Department of Homeland Security believes the attack threat “is still very real” and wants all states to stay on guard for the coming elections. Further attacks, DHS believes, could be multi-faceted, including cyber security, social media, disrupting the elections process, etc.

* Dietrich handed this out to reporters about recent actions taken by the Board of Elections

* Since October 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has performed weekly “hygiene scans” to detect potential vulnerabilities in our systems. None have been identified to date.

* Scheduling a “Risk and Vulnerability Assessment” with DHS, the most stringent cybersecurity analysis the agency offers

* Participation in numerous groups and associations dedicated to sharing cybersecurity intel and analysis, including the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center

* Working with state and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to facilitate information sharing from the Federal level all the way down to the local level

* Continued partnering with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology to leverage their cybersecurity services

* Purchased specialized hardware designed to further protect us from attacks

* Executive Director Steve Sandvoss obtained security clearance to attend national briefing with DHS in Washington, D.C., on cybersecurity and election integrity efforts on Feb. 18, 2018. SBE Director of Voting and Registration Systems Kyle Thomas and Legislative Liaison Cris Cray also attended the briefing.

The board also handed out an explanation of its “elaborate testing process” to protect the voting system’s “integrity and accuracy.” Click here for that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Nearly Nornal - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 2:32 pm:

    In McLean County, our election judge laptops have the voter registration info installed on them but this is not online nor can we go online with the laptops. Our votes are not transmitted online. All the tabulating goes on at the county clerk’s office. We do tabulate the votes from our precinct and report that in writing.

    Then the votes are run again at the office using their equipment and a final tally is run after that.

    As to the county’s mainframe servers, I do not have information on their vulnerability and access via the web.

    Hopefully, other counties are similar.

  2. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 2:48 pm:

    Nearly, I don’t think that the equipment in Sangamon County precincts is connected to the net or to any other system. Registration data is in paper binders, and the “voting machines” are standalone. I don’t know about the county’s central computing situation, either.

  3. - illini - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 3:26 pm:

    We do not have laptops in my county or in the polling places. Registration details are in paper binders All paper ballots are read as they are inserted in the machine and tabulated in the precinct after the polls close. All equipment and ballots are transported to the Clerks office and tabulated again.

    The machines are checked for accuracy before being delivered to the precincts.

    Hard for me to see how this can be tampered with. Precinct and county tabulations always match. And we still have a paper trail.

  4. - Swift - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 3:57 pm:

    Involving Trump’s DHS and DoIT is not inspire a lot of confidence that the system is secure…

  5. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 1, 18 @ 6:04 am:

    I suggest a Checkbox that would be checked by the voter at the machine that says “Check here if you’re not a Russian.”…problem solved. I mean, they have those “I am not a bot” things, so just sayin.

  6. - Honeybear - Thursday, Mar 1, 18 @ 8:08 am:

    I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a way to retroactively check your vote. I know there would be some that would say. I didn’t vote that way as buyers remorse but I think we need to be able to confirm our vote stayed as it was voted.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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