SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – With just over two months out from election day, the FBI is issuing what some people are calling an unprecedented warning. Bureau investigators say foreign hackers have penetrated election databases in two states and they are now warning other states, including California.
A suspected Russian hacker is said to be responsible for compromising data in Arizona, and investigators are working to determine the hacking group that targeted Illinois.
“Their driver’s license number, social security, there’s a lot of sensitive information that is important to protect,” says Kim Alexander, President of California Voter Foundation.
The FBI has sent state election boards a long list of recommendations on how to test their systems and do vulnerability scans.
California’s Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections statewide, says there’s no evidence of a breach here.
“I know we have strong laws compared to other states, we have a Secretary of State who’s an MIT engineering graduate, so he gets it,” says Alexander.
The office says, “California has one of the most strenuous voting system testing and certification programs in the world.”
So how is the state staying protected?
For one, they go through months of testing, including code review and simulated hacks.
Then voting systems, such as the equipment you see at polling places, cannot be connected to the Internet at any time.
Also in California, there is a paper trail in addition to our computerized voting system. But, not all counties have the same advantage.
“Large counties like L.A. have vast IT departments and lots of computer tech security, but smaller counties don’t have the same technology or security,” says Alexander.
UC Berkeley security researcher Nicholas Weaver says these types of vulnerabilities should not occur, but in California, a major safeguard is our back-up.
“Fortunately, California is good, we use paper ballots. But some other states use purely electronic ballots, and security experts know that it’s terribly insecure,” said Weaver.
The Secretary of State’s website was down all day Monday, but they said it’s not related to the hacks. They said it was some type of hardware issue, and they were working on getting the website back up.