/Anti-hacking security boosted on state voting systems

Anti-hacking security boosted on state voting systems

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson is one of them. He has asked Secretary of State Delbert Hosmann, the state’s elections chief and his counterparts across the country to increase cybersecurity protections in preparation for the Nov. 8 election. Thompson, the top Democrat on U.S. House Homeland Security Committee told Clarion-Ledger’s Washington D.C bureau that “I believe we need to be proactive in making certain that our system for electing our leaders not compromised by a foreign Government or foreign actors,” in September. Individual voting machines are unlikely to be compromised. Because the state’s county-operated machines cannot be accessed via the internet, they can only be accessed in person. Seventy-eight out of the 82 Mississippi counties use touchscreen voting machines. These machines were approved by Congress and paid for in 2002, when it passed Help America Vote Act. After the 2000 presidential election, hanging chads were raised and butterfly ballots were scrutinized. The punch card voting system in Florida was controversial. A razor thin margin allowed the vote to be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Secretary of State’s Office noted that four Mississippi counties use paper ballots. Experts say electronic databases are less secure. Recent breaches of the Illinois election rolls allowed for access to information on 90,000 voters. This has raised questions about Mississippi’s voting system. Hosemann, who runs the agency that manages the state’s voter registration database, said, “Our Statewide Election Management System… is monitored daily by a third party Mississippi security company.” Hosemann, responding to Mississippi Today’s questions, said that although it is vulnerable to hacking, the system is “very secure” despite nearly 4,000 attempts to hack the system in September. In August, there were approximately 5,000 attempts. He said that none of them were successful. The agency is working with U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to make use of the cyber-security tools of the federal agency for defense. Local officials claim that voters who cast ballots in their local precincts don’t have to worry about the integrity of their ballots. Roger Graves (long-serving Pike County circuit clerk) said, “We have so many safeguards.” Circuit clerks are responsible for overseeing the state and federal elections in each of their respective counties. Graves stated that the reason his county’s 90 touchscreen voting machines won’t be hacked by a criminal is because each machine is an individual device that is not connected to the internet. He expects 70 to 75 percent of Pike County’s registered voters to show up to the polls on Nov. 8. Graves agrees with Hosemann: Hacking the 90 or so touchscreen voting machines in his county would require a hacker to gain access to each one. This is because the machines are not connected to the internet. But Dr. David Dampier, a cyber-security expert at Mississippi State University, advises that any computer that tabulates information is vulnerable if it is connected to the internet. He asks, “Can it be protected?” “Yes, as much computer connected to the internet as it is.” He said.