“As Americans Fear Foreign Interference, Federal Agencies Work To Secure Elections”

Pam Fessler for NPR:

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Late last year, an election official in a small Texas county got a curious phone call. Someone claimed to be from Hart InterCivic, the vendor who supplied the county’s voting machines. The caller asked about sensitive security measures and tried to get the official to log into unfamiliar websites.

SAM DERHEIMER: And she didn’t know the person on the other side of the phone, and red flags were raised immediately.

FESSLER: Sam Derheimer of Hart says the local official immediately called the company with her concerns. Hart then contacted the Department of Homeland Security, which issued an alert through an information-sharing group that includes election officials and vendors around the country.

DERHEIMER: It really laid out the incident as best we knew it, what had occurred and what to be wary of.

FESSLER: It turns out the woman was unknowingly the target of a security firm hired by her county to test its cyberdefenses. But for those who run elections, the quick national response was a sign of just how much progress has been made since Russia attacked the 2016 elections.

CHRISTOPHER KREBS: An election official that three or four years ago would have probably just blindly and blithely followed the instructions now is like, wait a second; that doesn’t sound right.

FESSLER: Christopher Krebs is pretty happy about that. He runs the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with helping to secure elections. Krebs isn’t surprised that voters are worried about what might happen this year, with all the reports of social media disinformation campaigns and a wave of ransomware attacks against local governments. But Krebs thinks voters should be more confident than they are.

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