Vermont sharing election security lessons with the nation

Local News

The vulnerability of election systems in the US came to light in 2016, and it remains a major concern leading into next year’s election.

However, the nation may be able to learn something about it from the Green Mountain State.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos — widely considered one of the country’s foremost leaders on election cybersecurity — will share lessons Thursday with a nationwide audience.

Condos is in Boston, where he will give a keynote address at a national cybersecurity conference. He says rapid technological change makes cybersecurity a race without a finish line.

“I never really thought cybersecurity was going to be a big part of my role, but now I dream about firewalls, vulnerability assessments,” Condos said. “I eat, sleep and breathe cybersecurity. It keeps me awake sometimes at night, around election time, worrying about if our systems are going to hold up.”

Last week, in his first public comments since completing his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said the issue “deserves the attention of every American.”

FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials said in April that at the very least, Russian hackers researched and probed the election systems of all 50 states in 2016. Some, like the one in Illinois, were actually hacked.

There’s also the issue of social media misinformation.

“‘Republicans vote on Wednesdays and Democrats vote on Tuesdays’, or ‘all polling places are open until 9:00 at night’, which we know are wrong,” Condos said. “We’ve been meeting with Facebook and Twitter about how we can try to open up communication channels — when we see something, we can address it right away.”

Condos, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, says the state keeps a record of every paper ballot filled out by voters and saves a backup copy of the Vermont voter rolls every day.

“We have a process that we have to go through to pick new tabulators, new software for what we’re going to do, and we have to protect that.”

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