Officials say New York managed to dodge Russian hacking attempts last year — and they’re aiming to keep it that way.
Lawmakers at a hearing on election security Tuesday said the state must take steps to protect the democratic process because the risk of hacking is here to stay. Possibilities include statewide cybersecurity guidelines for county election boards and more aggressive auditing of ballots after an election to look for discrepancies.
“We know now the cyberattacks were part of a comprehensive effort by Putin’s Russia,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Long Island and the chairman of the Committee on Election Law. “These attacks were not aberrations. Only the most naive and/or the most corrupt would believe they will not continue into the future.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a review of election cyber security vulnerabilities following reports of Russian attempts to meddle with the election. Earlier this year, federal homeland security officials notified 21 states whose election systems Russian hackers tried to access. There was no evidence they actually penetrated the systems
In a twist, New York’s practice of using traditional paper ballots could make the state’s election system harder to manipulate using computers half-a-world away. But experts and good-government groups say the system of tabulating and reporting election results isn’t impervious to tampering.
One of the best ways to protect the integrity of elections is to perform a manual recount of a large enough sample size of ballots to ensure the results match up with the computer tally, according to Susan Lerner, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause-New York. She also urged lawmakers to resist the call to allow voting by online ballots, which she said were more vulnerable to hackers.
“The attacks on our election infrastructure are high tech, but much of the defense is low tech,” Lerner said.
Lawmakers say they’ll likely consider making changes to further safeguard the state’s election system in the 2018 legislative session which begins in January.