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Vote Hacking: Why the Feds are Scanning Systems in 33 States

Letter from Congress encourages states to make sure they're safe

WASHINGTON, D.C.--If you're concerned about your vote being secure, you're not the only one. Thirty-three states, so far, have contacted the Dept. of Homeland Security to ask for scans of their vote system, to check for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

"The states face the challenge of malefactors that are seeking to use cyberattacks to disrupt the administration of our elections," read a letter from Congress to the National Assoc. of State Election Directors.

"We urge the states to take full advantage of the robust public and private sector resources available to them to ensure that their network infrastructure is secure from attack," the letter continued.

Within the letter was language from the Constitution that says the states are responsible for conducting elections, not the federal government. That responsibility may indeed be the election system's best defense, according to the White House.

"It's hard to hack," said White House Spokesperson Josh Ernest Wednesday. "Our election system is very decentralized." What that means, essentially, is that a single cyberattack cannot ruin an election. It would take many such attacks.

"You have 50 different states, and in some cases individual localities within those states that operate their own system," said Ernest.

States that use a paperless election system are generally more vulnerable to attack. Indiana has some areas that still use paper. Because it's on paper and not in cyberspace, the information is safer from outside attacks. Essentially, they can't get to it if it's not there for them to get to.

Still some in D.C. are concerned about the possibility of an attack, enough to where an investigation is underway, said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) in an interview last month.

"We need to provide the necessary resources so that we can prevent this from happening and we need to retaliate where necessary," said Coats, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Coats said he couldn't provide any details on the investigation, but said he believes that if we do not hit back, then we are opening ourselves up. Ernest suggested this week that the White House may be looking into retaliation against Russia for some hacks that are not related to the voting system, but nonehteless demonstrate some of our vulnerabilities.

"Building those defenses, and in may opinion, striking back. It can't be a loose defense thinking that we're gonna run out the clock," said Coats, using a football metaphor.
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