Illinois Senator Pushes For More Secure Election Systems

Illinois was one of two states – the other being Arizona – that was the subject of cyber attacks on voter information in 2016.

by Doug Finke, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. / May 5, 2017
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(TNS) -- A state senator said Thursday he will ask local election authorities to take steps to ensure their election data cannot be hacked.

Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said the move is warranted after the cyber attack last year on state voter registration records that exposed personal information of thousands of Illinois voters.

"There are some vulnerabilities that I believe still exist at the local officials' level," Hastings said. "We'll pass a resolution urging them to monitor systems and make sure there's no malware or software lurking in the system that makes them vulnerable."

Hastings said the FBI thinks attempts will be made by foreign hackers in 2018 and again in 2020 to infiltrate American voter registration systems. Illinois was one of two states – the other was Arizona – that was the subject of cyber attacks on voter information in 2016.

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said the county contracts with an outside vendor to manage its voter registration system.

"We're working through a vendor who has very sophisticated versions of encryption and protection," Gray said. "It's really on their backs, not ours (to comply with Hastings' resolution)."

Gray said that the county system does a daily update of voter registration records with the State Board of Elections. He said it "shouldn't be too troublesome, I don't think" for the county to perform additional analysis of security during those updates.

"I've always felt comfortable in Sangamon County that we have protections in place," Gray said.

Hastings said one concern is that local election systems could get infected from malware during times the systems are linked to state election computers.

State Board of Elections officials testified before Hastings' subcommittee Thursday that 70,000 to 80,000 names of Illinois voters were accessed during last year's cyber attack. The hackers got driver's license numbers of some voters and also were able to obtain signatures and the last four digits of some Social Security numbers. The voters affected by the attack were notified by the state.

The attack was traced to computer equipment in the Netherlands that Hastings said was linked to hacking groups in Russia.

State officials said that since the attack, they've increased security of their systems.

©2017 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.