Before 2018 election, Connecticut aims to improve election cybersecurity

April 17, 2018 GMT

HARTFORD — Secretary of the State Denise Merrill gathered federal, state and local officials for a meeting Monday to work on strengthening Connecticut’s election cybersecurity before ballots are cast in November.

“2018 will be one of the most closely watched elections in our nation’s history,” said Merrill. “We are going to ensure through this task force the people in Connecticut know every vote will be counted, every voice will be heard.”

Representatives from Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, several state agencies, legislators and local election officials discussed how to block hackers and improve communications across the 169 towns running Connecticut’s elections.

The task force will issue a report in 90 days advising Merrill on how to invest the more than $5 million of federal funds recently appropriated for election security at the state and town level.

For security reasons, Monday’s conversations talked about security broadly and left many details vague. A need for vigilance in 2018 was a drum beat throughout.

In 2017, Homeland Security informed Connecticut and 20 other states that Russia-affiliated hackers hand attempted to infiltrate their electoral systems. The episode highlighted some of the strengths of the system — like keeping voter rolls and vote counting offline — but also showed the need for more security.

“Today it’s the Russians, but tomorrow it could be others,” said Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the State.

The task force will meet one or two more times before issuing their report, Merrill said.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson