Early voting starts tomorrow in Illinois, and following the technical issues seen in the Iowa caucuses, questions of election information safety and accountability still linger long after the 2016 Presidential election.
Last week the Office of the Auditor General for Illinois released the findings of the compliance examination of the Illinois State Board of Elections for 2018 and 2019.
The audit states that the Board of Elections “did not implement adequate internal controls related to cybersecurity programs and practices.” But the board says contrary to the audit synopsis, they are well prepared for the cybersecurity of elections in 2020.
Board of Elections Spokesperson Matt Dietrich says that the issues cited in the audit related to how cybersecurity processes were documented by the board of elections, and not due to a lack of cybersecurity.
“We have been very vigilant with cybersecurity and I would say that you probably would have a hard time finding any agency in state government that has been more attuned to the importance of good cybersecurity than the State Board of Elections.
Keep in mind that in July of 2016, we actually experienced a hacking episode here of our statewide voter registration database that has since been attributed to Russia. Since then we have undergone extensive training among staff, and we have changed virtually everything we handle our data internally.”
Dietrich says that Board of Elections implemented a program called the Illinois Cyber Navigator Program, to ensure safeguards and proper protocols are in place at the local level as well as state level.
“We have Cyber Navigators who are technicians who go to County Clerk’s Offices and boards of election and conduct training and risk assessments to make sure that every link of the elections system in Illinois is strong and that there is no vulnerable election authority that will have to undergo what we went through in 2016.”
Dietrich says the Board of Elections has added I.T. staff in order to directly assist the County Clerk Offices in all 108 counties in Illinois.
“As an agency, in the last two years we have added four staff members to our I.T. Department who’s jobs are strictly cybersecurity. Two of them deal specifically with cybersecurity of this agency, and then we have a couple more who work in the Cyber Navigator Program with the local election authorities, like the Morgsan County Clerk, and the Greene County Clerk, making sure that their offices are adequately secured against hacking, and that their staff is adequately trained to know how to recognize problems.”
Dietrich says that as far as the substance of the Auditor General’s report, the board will be adapting how security measures are documented going forward, and that the board is confident they are doing everything possible to stay ahead of potential hackers to their systems.