Illinois election officials say security capable of thwarting another breach

Voting-Election Security
A man votes on the only machine working shortly after polls opened in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections at a senior center, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Acworth, Ga. Election systems in the U.S. are vulnerable to cyber intrusions similar to the one that hit federal agencies and numerous businesses last year and remain a potential target for foreign hacking, according to a report released Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Branden Camp/AP)

Illinois election officials say security capable of thwarting another breach

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(The Center Square) – Illinois election officials are confident that stop gaps are in place to prevent another international breach.

In 2016, Russian hackers accessed the database for the Illinois State Board of Elections, which included voters’ names, addresses and birthdates. An investigation revealed up to 500,000 personal voter records may have been accessed during that breach.

Election databases are attractive targets to hackers because they contain personal information that can be pieced together with other data to help criminals steal money.

During an Illinois House Ethics and Elections Committee hearing Wednesday, Illinois Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the hack changed Illinois’ approach to election security.

“Virtually everything changed in how data is handled at the State Board of Elections following that incident in 2016,” Dietrich said.

The agency has developed the Cyber Navigator Program, which splits the state up into geographic zones and places two Cyber Navigators in each zone. Their goal is to train the end users in election authority offices to help guard against security breaches.

Illinois does not require election authorities to participate in the Cyber Navigator Program. It is 100% volunteer based.

Dietrich said protecting against hackers is a constant battle.

“Security has now become, and I think not just for us but for all the election authorities, just part of the job,” said Dietrich. “We’re aware that it is a never ending concern.”

Despite voters in many jurisdictions in Illinois using touchscreen or other electronic voting systems, state law requires that each vote leave behind a paper receipt, so any vote that is disrupted electronically can still be audited.

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