Bloomberg Businessweek
2020 Elections Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
2020 Elections Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek

Democracy Vs. Hackers

The 2020 elections could face more serious attacks

Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius, with Jonathan Levin and Daniel Flatley

The front line to protect the integrity of the U.S. presidential election is in a Springfield strip mall, next to a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. There, inside the Illinois Board of Elections headquarters, a couple dozen bureaucrats, programmers, and security experts are furiously working to prevent a replay of 2016, when Russian hackers breached the state’s voter registration rolls.

For 2020, Illinois is deploying new U.S. government software to detect malicious intrusions and dispatching technology experts to help local election officials. Even the National Guard, which started its own cyber unit several years ago, is on speed dial for election night if technicians needed to be rushed to a faraway county.

Still, Illinois officials are nervous. The cash-strapped state remains far short of the resources needed to combat an increasing number of nations committing geopolitical breaches. “We’re in an unusual time, and yes, there is concern about whether we have enough to go into 2020 totally prepared for what the Chinese, Russians, or North Koreans or any enemy of the United States may do to influence our elections,” says Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat. “We’re securing our elections with state resources, but there is a federal need. This is a national crisis.”

State election authorities are more prepared than they were four years ago, when they weren’t focused on the threat of voting system hacks. But


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