The Russians are coming, and that’s no joke. The invasion is happening in cyberspace. We’re not talking about trolls posting fake news stories on social media sites. Russian hackers are trying to figure out how to steal our elections. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been conducting a serious, bipartisan investigation into Russia’s ongoing attacks on our nation’s voting systems. What federal authorities have discovered is deeply disturbing. Now this committee has drafted a series of recommendations for securing our country’s election infrastructure, and it’s crucial that authorities on all levels of government act together to implement those ideas and ensure the sanctity of our votes.
… So the recommendations released last week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence aren’t just an idle wish list, they’re an urgent call to action. The most obvious precaution election officials should take is replacing what the committee describes as “outdated and vulnerable voting systems.” Any voting machines bought in the future should have a verifiable paper trail and no Wi-Fi capability. The committee also urges states to conduct more and better audits of election results.
None of these recommendations will do much good if state and local officials ignore federal authorities’ warnings about cyber-threats. Despite the conclusions reached by national intelligence agencies, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart last year scoffed at the idea that Russian hackers tried to attack state and local election systems. (“Where’s the evidence?” he said. “I would really question that.”) If local election officials like Stanart stick their heads in the sand and discount this threat, they’re asking for trouble.
Just as important, the committee recommends that the State Department and Defense Department work with our allies to establish internationally accepted norms of behavior in cyber-security. Russia must be warned that cyber-attacks on other nations’ critical infrastructure are unacceptable, and at some point, this behavior crosses the line from an act of mischief to an act of war.