Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report discusses major breaches into state and local election systems, Stateline reports. Mueller’s description of Russian interference designed to help the Trump campaign was a reminder of how far many state and local officials have come in securing election infrastructure and of how stark the threat remains to the nation’s 8,000 election offices. The report disclosed a previously unknown breach: Russian intelligence agents in November 2016 tried to introduce corrupted files into election offices in several Florida counties. The hackers succeeded in at least one county. It raises questions about election systems’ vulnerability to outside hackers and why the FBI didn’t tell Florida officials about the attempted strike.
Election experts say malicious foreign actors continue this year to target voter registration databases, Election Day result programs, and election office websites as they did during the last presidential election. Maurice Turner of the Center for Democracy and Technology said, “This isn’t just a one-time issue that’s come and gone.” Interference operations targeting the 2020 presidential election already have begun, Turner said. Phishing emails designed to allow hackers to capture passwords, usernames or personal information through unwitting officials likely have already gone out. States are trying to boost their 2020 readiness. The Virginia Department of Elections hosted an election security exercise in April, bringing in more than a hundred local officials to go over best practices and simulate scenarios, such as Election Day social media misinformation and attempted hackings. Lawrence Norden of New York University Law School School’s Brennan Center for Justice said there are glaring holes in U.S. election security. In 12 states, some counties still use paperless voting machines, and in four states every county does. Without a paper record, officials cannot guarantee the accuracy of vote tallies, and systems are vulnerable to hacking, Norden said.