EDITORIAL: Illinois should go all out on election cybersecurity

SHARE EDITORIAL: Illinois should go all out on election cybersecurity
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Cook County Clerk David Orr meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2017. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Two years ago, Illinois was targeted by foreign hackers who accessed some 76,000 voting records.

So you would hope the state is going all out to shore up election security now.

But with Election Day less than two months away, state bureaucrats are sitting on several million dollars earmarked for election security.

EDITORIAL

Can we get a little sense of urgency here? The state should distribute the money now, thoughtfully but quickly.

Springfield is employing several cybersecurity experts who are assessing voting systems in all 108 Illinois voting jurisdictions. But money for other security projects remains locked up, though local elections officials say they are ready to put it to good use.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who oversees suburban Cook elections, says the county has five voting security projects it wants to get started on, but he can’t pry the money loose from state government. Orr’s office and the Chicago Board of Elections have hired their own cybersecurity expert to get started on securing their systems, even as they wait on the state to provide an expert.

Two years ago, foreign hackers revealed just how vulnerable Illinois was. They broke into a state elections database and made off with addresses, birth dates, genders, party affiliations and even Social Security information. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers appeared to refer to a hack of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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Local election officials also say they are being warned almost every day by outside security experts about new potential threats.

Extended early voting in Illinois starts on Oct. 22. If there are vulnerabilities in our election systems, we had better find them now.

Or we might be looking at 2016 all over again.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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