Are hackers targeting Michigan’s election system?


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Less than 10 weeks out from Election Day, the FBI is warning state election officials that hackers may be targeting election-related data.

The bureau is not releasing specifics of the incidents in two states, but the warning comes after evidence was discovered that hackers tried to infiltrate systems in Illinois and Arizona.

Both state’s recently suffered hacker-related shutdowns, affecting the online voter registration section of their election websites.

It does not appear Michigan’s voting system was targeted.

“We took immediate action to insure that our systems were not targeted. They were not,” said Michigan Secretary of State Communications Manager Fred Woodhams.

But the warning does raise the question many of you who plan on going to the polls in November may be asking: Is my vote safe?

“Absolutely,” Woodhams said.

In the Illinois and Arizona cases, hackers were trying to infiltrate the front end of the voting process, targeting voter registration — not voting tabulations. But regardless of what section hackers targets and why, the question over whether their actions could undermined your vote are bound to come up.

“We have full confidence that the results on Election Day can be trusted. They’ll be verified,” Woodhams said. “There’s an incredible amount of redundancy built into our system and that’s absolutely intended to insure that if something were to fail on one end or somebody slipped up and made a mistake. Then there’s another set of results available.”

Woodhams said systems are scanned on a regular basis to pick up evidence of unauthorized access. The machines at voting precincts are not connected to the internet, so infiltration at that point in the process would be difficult.

There’s also the low tech, old school back up to all of the electronic equipment. In Michigan, voter lists to ballots are all on paper.

“One thing hackers have never been able to attack is a piece of paper,” Woodhams said. “Even if all the technology went down on Election Day, they would have paper back up ready to go.”

Cyber threats to the election process have caught the attention of the federal government. There’s been discussion of adding election systems to Homeland Securities Critical Infrastructure List.

To some it’s a way of protecting the voting process. To others, it’s the feds getting involved where they don’t belong. The move is opposed by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and her counterparts across the country.

“Secretaries of State generally have said that that’s really not something that they think is a good idea at this time to insert themselves into something that’s really a state’s responsibility,” Woodhams said.

He said it appears the feds are backing off that idea for now, but the issue could reemerge after the fall elections.

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