News Local/State

Illinois Board Of Elections Strengthens Cyber Security

US Voting graphic

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The Illinois State Board of Elections plans to help all 108 local election authorities across the state strengthen their cyber security practices. The effort comes after the state election authority was hacked by Russian intelligence officials in 2016. 

Speaking on The 21st Show this week, Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the agency, said the state board has significantly improved its data security systems and protocols in the wake of the 2016 breach. He said the agency identified 76,000 Illinois residents whose data was compromised as a result of the hack, and that all of them have been notified. 

Dietrich said a programming error on the part of the election board left open a “window” that allowed hackers to breach the system.

“We think that we’re are doing everything we possibly can to guard against that happening again. What we want to do now is make sure that none of the 108 local election authorities become a weak link," he said. 

Dietrich said the Board of Elections plans to use roughly $7 million in federal money to implement a new program, which he says will ensure local election authorities are also doing everything they can to ward off data breaches.

The state agency is unaware what the motive for the hacking was, Dietrich said, but federal indictments against Russian intelligence officials state that the goal was to undermine confidence in the country's voting systems and government in general. He said he's received calls from "voters who are concerned that my vote is not going to count because (the Russians) are going to hack in and steal my vote."

But Dietrich said that isn’t going to happen. Nor is it true, he said, that anyone risks compromising their personal information by registering to vote.

Dietrich said his message to Illinois residents is this: “Go to the polls and register to vote, and take part in the system.”

Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines.