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State Election Commission Reports 150,000 Attempts to Penetrate Systems on Election Day

by Countable | 7.17.17

What’s the story?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the South Carolina State Election Commission reports that there were 150,000 attempts to penetrate the Election Commission’s voter registration databases on November 8, 2016, the day of the presidential election.

Why does it matter?

The number of attempts in South Carolina, where Donald Trump won handily with 54.9 percent of the vote, doesn’t even compare to contested states, like Illinois. According to an Aug. 26, 2016, report by Illinois’ state computer staff, hackers were hitting the State Board of Elections "5 times per second, 24 hours per day" from late June until Aug. 12, 2016. The Journal reports that 90,000 voter records were successfully accessed in Illinois. However, no individual records were accessed in South Carolina.

The Charleston Post and Courier quotes Executive Director Marci Andino of the South Carolina State Election Commission as stating, that the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, and contends that hackers might not be solely at fault. She told the paper that, "the system classifies issues such as accessing scvotes.org through Windows XP or incorrectly entering information when looking for a polling place as a "rejected attempt."

She did not tell the paper how many of the "attempts" were likely from actual hackers as opposed to “bad traffic”.

Chris Whitmire, the South Carolina State Election Commission’s director of public information and training told the Journal that "most of the attempted intrusions in that state likely came from automated computer bots, not thousands of individual hackers."

The Department of Homeland Security was called in by South Carolina officials in September of 2016 to scan the election systems for vulnerabilities. The scans found 55 vulnerabilities, and twenty-five days passed before all but one of the vulnerabilities were addressed.

"I would tell you: up to three weeks to patch a vulnerability, that’s too long," said Curtis Dukes, who was Director of the National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate until January, to the Journal.

What can you do?

Are you concerned about election security? Do you have confidence in your state’s election systems? Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to these state reports? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr / Creative Commons )

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