Iowa recently learned it was one of 21 states targeted by hackers in the November election.
Though hackers were unable to get into that state’s election system, cybersecurity experts called the attempt a wakeup call for states to secure voter registration information.
“Most of these people are just thieves,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said. “They’re trying to steal information so that they can use your information to buy things (and) make money. They’re trying to do illegal activities.”
Pate said it is common for bad actors to try to compromise government systems up to 600,000 times per day.
Iowa has the latest technology with IT workers and Homeland Security constantly updating state sites, shutting down the latest hacking attempts.
“You got to watch them all the time,” Pate said. “When they’re rattling the doorknobs and checking the windows, we’ve got to make sure the alarms go and stop them, and we have done that.”
Iowa State cybersecurity expert Eric Rozier also tracks corruption and fraud for the World Bank.
“Every minute, every second, there are multiple attempts to break into the site,” Rozier said.
Rozier said it is difficult to identify the attackers.
“There are constant cases where we find vulnerabilities, and they’re usually patched as quickly as possible,” Rozier said.
Iowa State teaches computer students how to hack into sites so they can learn how to protect them.
Rozier believes the hackers who targeted Iowa and 20 other states wanted to obtain personal information to be used for identity theft.
“They weren’t looking at violating the actual integrity of our electoral process,” Rozier said. “From what we can tell, they were trying to get access to voter registration records.”
Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. About 90 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters are registered, making it one of the top six states in the country for the percentage of citizens registered to vote.