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After Attempted Hack, Ohio's Boards Of Elections Focus On Security

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose marks National Registration Day at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose marks National Registration Day at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.

Ohio’s Secretary of State says a recent attempt by a computer in Panama to insert code into his office’s website was unsuccessful. But state leaders say this incident underscores why a comprehensive election security plan must be put in place soon.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose says the attempted hack, which was traced back to a Russian company, was thwarted and no information from his office was at risk at any point.

Earlier this year, LaRose gave all 88 county boards of elections a  security directive. Aaron Ockerman with the Ohio Association of Elections Officials says local boards are on track to have all of those security enhancements complete by the end of January. 

“It includes all kinds of things from physical security, doors, windows, locks – those kinds of things to cybersecurity, passwords, cyber hygiene," Ockerman says.

Ockerman says the directives also include getting local systems to talk to the platform used by the Secretary of State, and converting emails to more secure addresses. He says local boards are on schedule to have all of those enhancements fully functioning by the March 17 primary.

Gov. Mike DeWine is echoing the need for vigilance in protecting state websites.

"We are going to have to continue, as business does, government is going to have to spend some money, frankly, to make sure our systems cannot be attacked," DeWine says.

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