States and feds unite on election security after ’16 clashes

AP NEWS | 10/18/2018 | Staff
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Weeks before the 2016 election, federal officials started making mysterious calls to the head of elections in Inyo County, California. They asked her to contact them if she noticed anything unusual. But they wouldn’t elaborate.

“I asked them: ‘How am I going to be able to protect against it if I don’t know what it is?’” said the official, Kammi Foote.

Foote - Officials - County - Voters - Security

Now, Foote communicates regularly with federal officials. They came to her small county of about 10,000 registered voters to analyze the security of her ballot system. She participates in state and federal information-sharing groups that didn’t exist two years ago and is getting a sensor that can help detect unwanted intrusions.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” Foote said about the Nov. 6 election. “I feel like the entire field of election administration has grown and matured in their ability to understand the cyber component and cyberthreats.”

Election - Officials - Cybersecurity - Agents - Collaboration

Election officials and federal cybersecurity agents alike tout improved collaboration aimed at confronting and deterring election tampering. Granted, the only way to go was up: In 2016, amid Russian meddling, federal officials were accused first of being too tight-lipped on intelligence about possible hacking into state systems and later for trying to seize control from the states.

Officials from Homeland Security, the department tasked with helping states secure elections, say the midterms will be the most secure vote in the modern era. They said they haven’t yet seen the type of infiltrations that happened in 2016.

Cybersecurity - Experts - Security - Cooperation - Breadth

Still, cybersecurity experts aren’t so sure the improved security and local-federal cooperation will be enough, given the breadth of threats that electoral systems may face.

States run elections, a decentralized process that makes it harder for anyone to conduct a nationwide attack on the electoral system. The downside is there is no national playbook. The 10,000 or so election jurisdictions use a combination...
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