State election officials say that despite millions of cyber attempts to gain access to South Carolina’s voter registration system in the past year, no one has succeeded. But two election watchdogs complain that problems have been discovered and they want to be shown evidence of their severity. … Initial assessments by the S.C. National Guard’s Military Department Defense Cyber Operations and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security done in the wake of the Russian hacking of the presidential election found weaknesses in all county offices and at the state elections agency. The elections agency later hired the Charleston-based cybersecurity firm Soteria to plug the holes. But a USC computer science professor and a Lowcountry elections watchdog want to see the full assessments for themselves. “Every single county has at least a critical or high vulnerability,” said University of South Carolina computer science professor and elections analyst Duncan Buell. “They were not doing the no-brainer things for election security.” The Homeland Security assessment found the same level of vulnerability in servers used by the state agency, he said.
Buell is not assured by the Election Commission’s assertions that hackers have failed to get into the Palmetto State’s voter registration or election tabulation systems.
His uncertainty is rooted in the fact that only about a third of the 4,600 pages of documents that he and a Charleston elections watchdog, Frank Heindel, requested have been released by the state commission, and those were heavily redacted, Buell said. “All of that stuff is blacked out,” he said of details that would answer questions about whether any hacks were successful, or what, if any, information was sought.
The National Guard assessment that started nearly a year ago turned up information that every county is vulnerable when it transfers data, Buell said. That means counties were not using secure communications channels, not encrypting information or reusing flash drives. “That’s the most damaging,” he said. “That’s the software that actually counts the votes at the end of the day.”