County Seeks Voting Upgrades to Bolster Cybersecurity

The Adams County, Miss., Board of Supervisors has given the election commission the authority to apply for a Help America Vote Act grant for an upgrade to technology in the election commissioner’s office.

by Sabrina Robertson, The Natchez Democrat / February 10, 2020
Residents arrive at their polling place to cast votes at St. Paul Methodist Church in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (John Sommers II/Getty Images/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — Hackers beware as Adams County, Miss., Election Commissioners are seeking to fund computer upgrades to combat virus attacks against systems used to store voter data.

During a special-called meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors Thursday, officials gave the election commission the authority to apply for a Help America Vote Act grant with no match required that could reimburse the county for a $7,300 upgrade to technology in the election commissioner’s office.

Election Commission Chairman Larry Gardner said the upgrade would include five new desktop computers and a scanner used to scan documents for each Adams County voter’s file.

Gardner said he also hopes the grant would fund a software upgrade for the Circuit Clerk’s office so that all the computers used to access the election management system would use Windows 10 operating systems.

In November, an attack that technician’s identified as Ryuk ransomware temporarily disabled computers and servers at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

After the incident, officials said the attack was believed to have originated from an email that an ACSO employee opened.

Since then, the servers were wiped clean and restored using backup data.

“The computers at our desks are nine years old and operating in Windows 7 with Internet Explorer. We can’t use those because they are no longer protected so we need to upgrade our operating systems,” Gardner said. “… When we log onto the Internet through our server and using our Internet provider, using Windows 7 and Internet Explorer leaves an opening for people to do bad things. That’s what happened in the county just a few weeks ago, and it shut the computers down. We don’t want that to happen again.”

Gardner said once approved the new equipment could arrive within a week or two after it’s approved.

“It would be great if we could have (new equipment) by the next election,” Gardner said. “It doesn’t take long to get.”

©2020 The Natchez Democrat (Natchez, Miss.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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