Election experts more concerned about ransomware attacks than altering of votes

Posted at 12:13 PM, Aug 03, 2020

COVID-19 isn't the only concern with the upcoming election.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning local governments about possible ransomware attacks, something like malicious software blocking officials from access to voting systems.

Experts think that is more of a likely scenario than altering actual votes.

“The only way to ensure confidence is to demonstrate that you've done everything you possibly can to facilitate that safe and secure election,” said Maya Worman, Executive Director of Election Cyber Surge Initiative.

The initiative is led by the University of Chicago. It’s pairing local election officials with volunteer cyber security experts to address specific areas of cyber security concerns.

“And the biggie, I think, is human error, user error, whether that is accidentally sending sensitive information to the wrong person, not having a strong password management system, sharing passwords,” said Worman.

The pandemic is adding further complications, with just more than 90 days to go.

Worman says they felt the urgency to be proactive in helping election officials.

“Now, we’ve got so many people working from home on their own devices,” said Worman. “An organization has no insight into what the security around your home, Wi-Fi or home devices, is.”

This free resource is invaluable for elections. Some states rely on staff or federal assistance for cybersecurity. Others pay private companies.

The pandemic could mean a reduction in volunteers, a new need for PPE and an influx of absentee ballots.