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Condos: State Is Taking 'Every Precaution' To Prevent A Cyber-Attack On Voting System

Secretary of State Jim Condos says his office is taking the threat of a cyber-attack on the state's election system seriously.

The F.B.I. is urging states to be on the lookout for any evidence of efforts by outside groups to hack into local or state databases.

The agency has issued a special alert after a yet-to-be-identified overseas group successfully hacked into the database of the Democratic National Committee.

Federal officials are concerned that hackers could electronically interfere with the tabulation of votes in November's election.

Condos says he's not surprised that these attacks are taking place, and he says his office was the first state agency to undergo a thorough cyber-security assessment.

“I want Vermont voters to know that we're taking every step and every precaution necessary,” Condos said on Vermont Edition Friday. “And I know that my colleagues across the country are taking this seriously." 

Condos says Vermont is in good shape to deal with a cyber-attack that attempts to alter election results, because the tabulation process is decentralized in the state.

Hear Secretary Condos speak with VPR's Bob Kinzel on Vermont Edition.

Local town officials either count their ballots by hand or use optical scan machines to record the results of individual paper ballots.

"So those units themselves are stand alone,” Condos says. “There's no hard wire, no Wi-Fi that connects them to the internet."

Some states are considering a plan to allow internet voting in the future. Condos doesn't like this idea at all.

“I'm one of the those that believes that we're not ready for it, although I know that a lot of millennials believe that we can go forward with it. You know, they want to be able to vote on their cell phones. I don't think we're ready for that. We don't have the level of security yet that's necessary."

And to guard against future attacks, Condos says his office is working with security officials to continually test the integrity of Vermont's election system.

“They actually hired hackers to try to hack into our system and then tell us if they were successful or not, or what they found as a result, and then we work with our vendors for our software to tighten it up if it's necessary,” Condos says.

Condos says the threat of cyber attacks also highlights the need to continue to use paper ballots in Vermont and not to move towards an electronic voting system that doesn’t require a hard copy of every ballot.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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