Monday, August 13, 2018

Election officials want money, training to improve security

Regional U.S. election officials at a hacker conference last week said they need more money and training to improve cyber-security for elections. Local election officers, they said, don't have the knowledge or resources to rebuff foreign attackers and need support from both the state and federal government, Todd Prince reports for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Their concerns appeared not to be entirely unfounded. As an exercise, hundreds of hackers at the annual Defcon conference attempted to infiltrate websites that are identical to the infrastructure used to conduct elections around the U.S. "One session reportedly featured an 11-year-old who successfully hacked into a replica website for the Florida secretary of state and changed election results," Bret Molina reports for USA Today.

Children as young as eight years old were invited to try to hack the voting sites. Jake Braun, a former White House liaison for the Department of Homeland Security, told ABC News, "These websites are so easy to hack we couldn’t give them to adult hackers — they’d be laughed off the stage." Last year at DefCon, attendees were able to find and exploit flaws in five different kinds of voting machines in less than a day, Molina reports.

Harri Hursti, founding partner of Nordic Innovation Labs, told Prince that because so many different kinds of voting machines are used, hackers might have a harder time influencing nationwide elections, but that they could cause big changes by focusing on a few key local elections or precincts.

The National Association of Secretaries of State said in a statement that the DefCon exercise isn't a realistic scenario, since most hackers don't have unlimited physical access to voting machines. But the machines are only part of the problem; election employees let hackers in when they click on phishing emails that introduce viruses into their systems, Prince reports. Improved training for officials is just as needed as better firewalls, said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

House Republicans voted along party lines to reject a Democratic effort to increase election security spending last month, saying that "Congress had fully funded states’ election security needs over the years and that states still have plenty of grant money left to spend from a $380 million allocation for 2018," Erica Werner reports for The Washington Post.

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