Russian hackers might not be as active in interfering with U.S. voting systems this year as they were in 2016, but that doesn’t mean states don’t have plenty of work to do to secure future elections, state and federal officials told members of the House of Representatives Wednesday. “Many elections across our country are being run on equipment that is either obsolete or near the end of its useful life,” Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea told the House Homeland Security Committee. But Gorbea, who said her state started buying new paper-ballot optical scanning machines to count votes in 2015, said replacing hardware is only one part of making the elections she oversees less vulnerable. In her experience, she said, the state-, county- and city-level officials who actually manage elections are “ill-prepared” to deal with cyberthreats.
The more looming threat to election security is the number of threats against the computer networks used by state agencies involved in conducting elections, rather than against the ballot boxes themselves, Gorbea and Christopher Krebs, the Homeland Security undersecretary in charge of the department’s cybersecurity programs, said at the hearing.
“Voting systems in and of themselves are systems within systems,” Krebs said when asked if he was aware of any attempts by hackers to directly access ballot-counting machines. “You also have backend systems that store voter registrations. Just like any IT system, there are going to be vulnerabilities. What we’re looking for is resilience in the system.”