Secretary of State staffer Dwight Shellman returned from a hacking convention with the message that although Colorado’s elections are secure from the types of voting machine and website attacks demonstrated at the conference, state and local officials need to remain vigilant.
The 26th annual Def Con conference featured a large number of “villages” in which attendees learned about and sometimes attempted to hack a broad range of technologies and platforms, including automobile software and cannabis cultivation technologies. .
Shellman, the county support manager for the state Elections Division, focused most of his attention on the Voting Village, which invited participants to test “more than 30 pieces of electronic voting equipment” and “defend or hack mock office network and voter registration databases,” according to Def Con’s website.
He witnessed kiddie hackers gain access — but said the whole story wasn’t reported.
At the invitation of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Department of Homeland Security officials came to Colorado hunting for bad guys in the SOS’s network.
Did they bag anything?
“I learned a new acronym: NSTR — Nothing Significant to Report,” said Trevor Timmons, the Secretary of State’s office chief information officer.
The exercise is the latest effort by Williams to ensure that Colorado’s elections are accurate and secure. The Washington Post recently wrote about “how Colorado became the safest state to cast a vote.” Colorado already had implemented many of the measures recommended after election officials learned of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.
“Elections only work if people trust them,” Williams said.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the director of the Department of Homeland Security, reinforced to secretaries of state and election officials that one of her top priorities has been to enhance the resilience of the nation’s election infrastructure.
“As I see it,” she said, “election security is national security.”
And the day before NASS kicked off its conference, Williams and other members of the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council met at the same Philadelphia hotel to discuss the security of election systems.
The group oversees how the Department of Homeland Security works with state and local jurisdictions to implement its designation of elections systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
“At one point there were 27 people around the table — including members of DHS, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and other national groups – four of those 27 were from Colorado,” Williams said. “Colorado’s commitment to election security is so strong.”
The other Coloradans at that meeting were Judd Choate, the elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State, Sarah Ball Johnson, the clerk in Colorado Springs, and Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director.
For the second election in a row, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has overseen a risk-limiting audit designed to catch mistakes if they happened when ballots were tabulated.
The audit of the June 26 primary election involved 20, 10-sided dice, a variety of election officials from across the nation and Colorado county clerks excited to proclaim their results on social media.
“WooHoo!! Jeffco Risk-Limiting Audit completed!! 263 (ballots) with NO discrepancies!” the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office tweeted Saturday.
“The purpose for all this is so the voters can have trust and confidence in the system,” Williams said.
“There are some people who go into denial whenever they don’t win. ‘Everybody I talked to voted for me. How can I possibly not have won?’ This is part of providing that assurance to folks.”
Some counties are still in the midst of their audits, while others completed theirs last week.