Securing Utah’s midterm election from cyberattacks

As we head into election season, the securing U.S. election systems from Russian hackers is a primary concern for U.S. elections officials.

Justin Lee, the Director of Utah’s Election office, says Utah has been working with the Department of Homeland Security since the 2016 election to fend off any attempts to breach Utah’s election cybersecurity.

“We’re always worried about anybody attacking, hacking, penetrating the voter registration system,” he says. “We have our own security team and have been coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that stuff doesn’t get through.”

The DHS admitted in February that Russian hackers were able to penetrate the voter rolls of several states before the 2016 election. Luckily, Lee says Utah was not one of the affected states.

Lee stresses that there’s a big difference between the voter rolls and voting systems, which are much more decentralized and more difficult to tamper with.

He says Utah has been participating in a pilot program where election officials are briefed on specific threats so that they can be prepared.

Lee says they also plan to conduct an outside audit of their system this year to find any vulnerabilities they may not be aware of before the election.

“We want to be very careful to make sure there’s not something we’re missing. We want to be able to plug those holes,” he said.

Lee says they’re also prepared for a worst-case scenario. If Utah’s election rolls are breached, they have backups available to restore the system.

Lee says they’re cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to handle any cybersecurity issues that may arise during the 2018 elections.

“We don’t have too much hubris here. We’re watching it and are nervous that this stuff is happening. There are threats, but we’re working through them, and we’ve got guys who are very aware and watching this situation.”