As concerns surrounding the exposed vulnerabilities in U.S. election systems continue to rise, Sen. Dick Durbin warned Monday that American voters are “under attack,” citing a malicious cyber-attack that compromised the personal information of thousands in 2016.
“We want the American people to know that we are up against it,” Durbin said. “We are under attack. Their vote is under attack.”
The hack began in summer 2016 when technicians at the Illinois State Board of Elections noticed heavy traffic on their servers. Hackers had exploited a window on the website designed to help people find out where they could vote.
“That window, unfortunately security on that window was not as tight as it should have been,” said Steve Sandvoss with the Board of Elections. “It was a design flaw. It would have been the equivalent of leaving your house, but leaving one of your windows unlocked.”
That malicious cyber-attack compromised the personal information of as many as 86,000 voters, officials said.
“They hacked into up to 30 state Boards of Election and websites,” said Congressman Mike Quigley. “Our briefings told us they got right up to the election machines.”
Now, the federal government has approved $380 million in grants to states, including $13.2 million to Illinois to make its elections more secure.
“We have hired a cyber security expert to help us as we approach,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr. “Secondly, we will probably have our new election equipment in the next few months because the modern equipment is much better.”
The new equipment combines the ease of a touch screen with the accountability of paper ballots, officials said.
“Any ballot that needs to be looked at will show up automatically on the screen,” said Dr. Eric Croomer with the Chicago Board of Elections.
Still, Durbin said the funding isn’t enough.
“It is too little,” he said. “And when you consider the money that we have spent in the past and modernizing our elections, $380 million is a very small amount. And it is late.”