State election officials are woefully unprepared for a cyber disruption around Election Day, Politico reports. While states have spent years thinking about and planning for other types of crisis that can mess with voting, including hurricanes, power blackouts and terrorist attacks, they’ve been slow and ill staffed to develop contingency plans responsive to a hack attack that would adequately protect their systems in time for the 2016 presidential election. “They’re waking up to it, but they largely don’t know what questions to ask,” said expert Jeremy Epstein of SRI International.
A dozen battleground state officials surveyed by Politico insist voting systems are safe, as they mostly take place in a secure, offline environment. They acknowledged there are limits to what they can control, and they recognize they face legitimate challenges from cyber intrusions to the myriad adjacent parts that go into an election, including online registration records and publicizing vote tallies. While manipulation of a state’s official election results is seen as unlikely, there’s little denying that an Internet disruption or hack could cause significant confusion and chaos on election day. Just last week, hackers temporarily froze a sizable chunk of the Internet, a scenario that would cause serious problems if duplicated on Nov. 8, when more than 100 million Americans go to the polls.