Are Kansas voting systems vulnerable to hacking?

Local

Kansas is less than a week away from its primary election. While Russia’s election hacking dominated national headlines, KSN wanted to know how Sedgwick County is protecting its voting system and voters.

Election security is a big concern for the county’s election office, according to election commissioner Tabitha Lehman.

“We have not seen anything to believe that we have been targeted, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t be, so we are doing what we can,” Lehman said.

This includes working with the county’s Information Technology (IT) department.

“In the state of Kansas, it is actually against regulation for any part of the voting machine or anything that touches those voting machines to be connected to the internet at all,” explained Lehman.

The election office has other safeguards in place, such as security seals and serial numbers that election workers have to verify and match before Election Day morning.

Lehman added that all staff are trained in cybersecurity.

The county’s election office is designed to protect the system — by not allowing anyone to walk into the room where the election machines are located.

Lehman said they are always looking for ways to improve its procedures.

“We do have procedures in place to protect as best we can, but we would never ever assume that we’re never a target or that it’s not a concern,” said Lehman.

A cybersecurity specialist at Wichita State University agreed with the election commissioner.

“Anything information technology is going to have some vulnerabilities. Nothing is 100-percent secure,” said Lincoln Schroeder.

While is it against Kansas regulations for voting machines to connect to the internet, Schroeder explained the “air gap” is one way a malicious code could be spread.

 “At some point in time, you got to get that information off,” said Schroeder. “You’re going to have to pass that information somehow.”

He explained there are a number of ways to hack a machine not connected to the internet, such as someone buying voting machines.

“Maybe they’ll go back to the manufacturer, hack into their website, their company networks, and change the firmware,” said Schroeder. “Unbeknownst to that company, the firmware ships out, maybe they use thumb drives or CDs to create and spread malicious code.”

The cybersecurity specialist said the best way to prevent hacking is to stay aware and knowledgeable about the systems.

According to Lehman, she spends hours a day keeping up on security memos and making sure the election office has correct policies in place.

Early voting continues at the Sedgwick County Election office, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early voting ends on August 6.

The primary election is on August 7.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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