Secretary Williams talks cybersecurity with Lockheed Martin system users

April 19, 2018
Rob Smith, a vice president at Lockheed Martin, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams after the secretary’s speech on cyber security at the firm’s Deer Creek facility last week. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Major credit card companies this month eliminated the need for customers to sign their receipts, but don’t except the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to adopt that policy any time soon for voters who turn in their ballots.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explained how the ballot process works when he addressed a Lockheed Martin seminar at its Deer Creek facility last week during a conference on cybersecurity. He said a voter’s signature is a “critical part of the integrity of the process.”

“When you have a mail ballot sent to you, the way we know it’s you is you signed the envelope and we scan that envelope when it comes in and we compare your signature to the signature that’s on file,” he said. “I don’t see us stepping away from that until we get some other way to verify it actually is that person.”

The seminar at Lockheed was attended by users of  Radiant Mercury, a cross-domain intelligence sharing system that allows secure sharing of sensitive data between unclassified and classified security domains. The system was developed at the Deer Creek facility. Among those at the seminar were members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and the intelligence community.

Williams was introduced by Rob Smith, the vice president of C4ISR — handy shorthand for Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

After his talk, Williams was asked is whether he would follow the path of credit-card companies on foregoing signatures.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams speaks at Lockheed Martin. (SOS photo)

The secretary pointed out that in the last presidential election 93 percent of Coloradans voted a mail ballot, while 7 percent voted in person. Of the 2.6 million who voted by mail ballot, 21,408 ballots were not officially tabulated because of signature problems, mostly because the signature didn’t match the one on file.

Counties do give voters a chance to cure their ballots in that case by sending them a letter.

“My daughter got one of those letters — from me,” said Williams, the former El Paso County clerk and recorder. “She called and said ‘Dad, you didn’t count my ballot,’ and I was running for Secretary of State so I really wanted her vote.”

Williams said what happened is his daughter had carefully written her signature when she got her driver’s license but by the time she was in college it was a scrawl.

“We disqualified her ballot, sent her a letter and she was able to correct it,” he said.

As for the Secretary of State’s cybersecurity measures, Williams said some of it was developed internally and some by outside companies.

“We’re actually working with Homeland Security and the county clerks to set up some phishing exercises and other things. We’ve also participated in a number of national ‘what if’ scenarios,” Williams said.

He added that the office assists with non-election matters as well, such as when attackers penetrated a county’s network internet utilizying ransomware. In addition, when the Colorado Department of Transportation recently was shut down by ransomware, SOS staffers assisted with some initial help.

“We’re engaged in trying to help our partners, because, frankly, any lack of confidence in any aspect of government causes people to lose confidence in the whole process,” Williams said.