Illinois State Board of Elections prioritizing security well before 2024 election

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Federal officials recently warned state and local election leaders that they should upgrade security defenses before the 2024 election.

There is no evidence that foreign governments manipulated or compromised election results in 2022, but officials said everyone state should remain vigilant.

Election directors and secretaries of state from across the country have heard the same message about secure elections for many years.

“It’s just part of the way we operate that cybersecurity and overall election security is at the forefront of everything we do,” said Matt Dietrich, the Illinois State Board of Elections public information officer.

ISBE created a cyber navigator program in 2018 with $14 million in federal funding to ensure all 108 election authorities have access to the same cybersecurity training and resources.

Dietrich said eight cyber navigators are assigned to four geographic zones across the state to conduct risk assessments on electronic systems and assess the security of physical offices. He explained that the board also helps local election authorities improve their security yearly.

“If they need new security software, if they need new hardware because they can’t support the most current security software, we can help them pay for that through our security grants,” Dietrich added.

Illinois receives grant funding from the federal Election Assistance Commission, which provides roughly $75 million in security grants annually.

The state used the previous financing to create a Department of Information Security separate from ISBE’s information technology department.

“We think that we’re staying a step ahead,” Dietrich said. “But, as in all things regarding cybersecurity, you just don’t know until something happens.”

Meanwhile, Dietrich said foreign scans on election systems cannot change votes or delete voter registration.

“If a foreign actor is caught being able to break into any government system anywhere, it’s going to undermine confidence in general among the public,” Dietrich said.

ISBE frequently shares information with other states and academics who study cybersecurity to avoid potential threats.

Dietrich noted that voters should always be careful about election information they see on social media that may be questionable. He stressed that ISBE is the best source for basic voter information.

“A lot of the misinformation, a lot of the election disinformation that gets out there, comes via social media,” Dietrich said. “It’s very difficult for the election community nationally to stay ahead of social media because it is so big.”

ISBE works with federal partners through the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to help monitor for potential misinformation.

Dietrich said ISBE also has a staff member that works within the Illinois State Police State Terrorism and Intelligence Center to keep an eye out for election misinformation on social media and traditional media.

Copyright 2023. WAND TV. All rights reserved.

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February 27, 2023 at 07:02PM

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