In Southern California, home to some of the nation’s most competitive congressional contests, that threat of Russians cyberhacking this year’s midterm elections is being taken seriously. Consider just a few of the many new security protocols being adopted by election officials in the four-county region encompassing Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Office emails are being encrypted and networks buttressed. Election employees are randomly being mock phished to see if they’ll fall for simulated online invaders. Federal officials are being invited to inspect and test the region’s many voting systems.
The local upgrades are part of a national response to Russia’s meddling in America’s 2016 elections. Intelligence agencies have determined that, among other things, Russian agents and their operatives executed a cyberattack on a U.S. voting software supplier, sent spear-phishing emails to election officials, and targeted voter rolls in at least 21 states, breaching a small (but undisclosed) number of them. Since then, Congress has authorized $380 million to help states strengthen voting systems’ digital defenses, including $34 million earmarked to protect the integrity of elections in California.
California’s voting infrastructure is, in many ways, far more secure than those of most other states. Counties in California are legally required to keep paper ballots as fixed records of electronic voting tallies and to hand-count the ballots cast in 1 percent of all precincts to verify digital totals. But despite California’s superior safeguards, cybersecurity experts say the state’s voting systems remain susceptible to some forms of attack. Recognizing the threat, election officials in the four counties say they’ve become more vigilant since the 2016 campaign.
The leader of the pack seems to be Orange County, where four congressional contests in longtime GOP-held district are being targeted by national Democrats in their effort to take control of the House of Representatives. Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley released a 28-page 2018 Election Security Playbook outlining new security protocols his office has implemented: improving its ability to detect network intrusions and malware; encrypting its emails; enhancing building security; implementing a third-party cybersecurity audit; and randomly testing employees by sending them faux phishing emails and seeing if they bite.
Full Article: California Counties Hardening Defenses Against Vote Hacking.