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Improved Security Won't Arrive in Time for U.S. Midterm Elections

With the 2018 U.S. midterm elections on everyone's newsfeed as of late, it's hard to ignore the elephant in the room that comes in the form of the most recent presidential elections. With doubt and uncertainty still surrounding the outcome, along with plenty of confusion and finger-pointing toward foreign, government-sponsored hackers, U.S. voters aren't exactly brimming with confidence.

To make matters worse, the country won't even be able to bolster their IT security before the midterm elections in November. In fact, it might take until 2021 for officials to establish a standardized system that protects voters while guaranteeing the validity of their votes.

Progress is Being Made...Slowly

Despite growing concerns, progress is being made. The presidential election of 2016 highlighted the need for improved IT security – and Congress moved quickly to enact a new spending bill worth $380 million.
While all 50 states in the U.S. have already some amount of assistance, primarily coming from the Department of Homeland Security, they have yet to implement any sort of sweeping or significant changes to their infrastructure.

Jeanette Manfra, top cybersecurity figurehead with the Department of Homeland Security, touched on this subject in her recent presentation at Defcon in Las Vegas, saying: ''"These folks have been thinking about this for a long time, and they do a lot with not a lot of resources. Now they're on the front lines trying to deal with a lot of issues, and they can't do it alone."''

For example, Cook County, located in the state of Illinois, was recently awarded a $13 million grant to supplement IT security on behalf of local elections. Despite the fact that Illinois was the sole state to publicly verify that their voter records have been hacked back in 2016, they didn't receive any funds until late September 2018 – and that only represents a small fraction of what they're owed.

Other states share similar concerns. Senator Mark Warner from Virginia recently issued a statement reading, in part: ''"Elections, at all levels, are central to our democracy, to our institutions and to our government's legitimacy. And I remain concerned that we are still not prepared."''

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, they've increased their outreach efforts substantially in recent months. The problem comes from the vast number of states that refuse to participate in their current programs.

To illustrate this fact, a DHS official recently unveiled that only 19 states are participating in government-sanctioned Risk and Vulnerability analyses. In addition, only 32 of the 50 states have reached out regarding the government's cyber hygiene programs.

Senator Angus King from Maine was a little more blunt in his response to the issue, stating: ''"Hack some of these states, and show them how vulnerable they are. I don't think they're going to believe it until you show them what people can do."''

Is it Enough?

Officials with the U.S. government are obviously committed to cybersecurity, but critics insist that their efforts aren't enough. Given the forecasted date of 2021 for full-scale implementation of a new, standardized system, voters might not even be protected in the next presidential election – and this has many worried about the future.


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