Government

Iowa takes new steps to protect voting

More anti-cyberattack resources offered to counties

Large displays show various information during a media tour of the Office of Chief Information Officer for the State of Iowa’s Security Operations Center in the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Large displays show various information during a media tour of the Office of Chief Information Officer for the State of Iowa’s Security Operations Center in the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — State and federal officials Tuesday worked to assure Iowans their votes are safe and the integrity of the nation’s voting system is being protected against would-be cyberattackers.

Chris Krebs, President Donald Trump’s nominee for undersecretary of the national protection and programs directorate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, joined Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to discuss cybersecurity for Iowa’s elections and to give reporters a glimpse of the Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Security Operations Center in the basement of the Hoover State Office Building.

“First in the nation in voting demands first-in-the-nation security,” said Pate, who announced the dedication of new resources to all 99 counties to ensure the security and integrity of Iowa’s elections. “Iowa goes first in the presidential nominating process, we’re one of the top states for voter registration and voter participation, and we’re working hard to make sure we have the best cybersecurity in the nation.”

Pate said he will conduct cybersecurity workshops with county auditors and their information technology staff June 20 and June 21 to give them more information about the resources being provided by the national Department of Homeland Security and Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Krebs said all levels of government are working with private-sector companies to “ensure your vote counts, and is counted correctly.”

He said election officials will conduct national exercises to assess risks and run through response plans.

“We understand the potential risk, we understand the bad things that might be able to happen,” Krebs said. “The most important thing we can do is ensure that voters have confidence in our election systems.”

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Pate and Krebs acknowledged Russian attempts to hack into state-run election systems, an effort the federal official called “unprecedented” and “unacceptable.”

While Iowa was one of 21 states targeted, Pate said he wanted to “dispel the myth” that Iowa’s voting system was hacked, noting the state uses paper ballots.

“We don’t do it on the internet. We don’t do it through email, so there’s nobody in Moscow, Russia, who’s changing or voting for you. I just want Iowans to be confident and assured of that,” he said.

“We were not hacked in 2016. Someone in the Russian government scanned our public website, which is not connected with the voter registration database. I-Voters is housed in a separate, secure location. What happened was the equivalent of a burglar driving around a neighborhood, except in our case they weren’t even in the right city,” Pate added.

“While it’s important to learn from 2016, it’s imperative that our focus be on 2018,” he said. “We are building a human firewall that needs to be just as strong as the technological ones, and that firewall must include all 99 county auditors. Requiring two-step authentication for access to Iowa’s voter registration database is one new requirement we are placing on all 99 counties. This is about protecting the integrity of the vote.”

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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