Cybersecurity Official: Paper Trails are Voting's Top Issue

"If you can't check back across the system what's happening in the system, then you don't really have security," said Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

by Alyza Sebenius, Bloomberg News / February 14, 2019
Voters cast their vote in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church in Lexington, South Carolina, on January 21, 2012. (C. Aluka Berry/The State/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — A top Trump administration cybersecurity official warned that voting machines must produce paper receipts to protect against hacking in the 2020 election, demonstrating wariness of a decadeslong trend toward electronic voting amid efforts by Russia and China to influence U.S. elections.

“If you don’t know what’s happening and you can’t check back across the system what’s happening in the system, then you don’t really have security,” Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security. The ability to audit voting and voter registration is “the greatest area of need,” he said.

Five states currently use machines that don’t produce paper records: Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware.

U.S. officials are still working to understand and combat efforts by other nations — including Russia and Iran — to influence 2016 and 2018 elections. While election security is “light years” ahead of where it was three years ago, there are still “challenges with basic cyber hygiene,” such as patching systems and two-factor authentication, Krebs said.

Meetings between Krebs’s agency and new secretaries of state, who run elections, were delayed during the partial government shutdown last month, he said. Vulnerability assessments also were delayed, he added.

Thomas Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said that officials are also reviewing the supply-chain of voting equipment with foreign components, adding that he had “very little concern” about the risk they posed given the capabilities of the American labs certifying the machines.

©2019 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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