As the 2020 US election nears, voter systems still vulnerable

Voters cast their ballots in the 2018 US midterm election in Chicago REUTERS

One such attack was directed at the Illinois State Board of Elections, an agency that oversees and facilitates parts of election processes in the state, including a statewide voter registration system.

Illinois was not alone. Earlier this year, the US Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, concluded that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by hackers linked to the Russian government.

The number of successful penetrations appears to have been much smaller; Russian operatives were able to get into Illinois’ system as well as the voter databases of two counties in Florida.

Despite the progress, the country is heading into the election with “endless” vulnerable points in the election infrastructure, according to Mr Norden.

“American elections are very decentralized,” he said. “We have 8,000 – at least – election jurisdictions in the US. In some ways, that means we’re running 8,000 different elections during a big federal election, like a presidential election. And one of the things that we saw in 2016 was that local election offices were clearly a target.”

Mr Norden says those local offices often have no IT support – and no cybersecurity staff.

“[That makes them] a weak link in the election security system and potentially vulnerable to the kinds of attacks that we saw in 2016.”

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