Early voters Roberta and Billy Howell, of Lawrenceville, cast their votes at Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registration and Elections in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin
Photo: Hyosub Shin

5 things to know about Georgia, hacking and the election

As Republican nominee Donald Trump continues to urge supporters to prevent a “rigged” election in November, federal officials are again warning of cybersecurity threats as they work to thwart hackers ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election.

Media reports say that 46 states have sought help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to gauge their readiness for Election Day, but Georgia is not one of them.

Instead, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office conducts its own scans of Internet-accessible access points such as the state’s Election Night reporting website by using in-house staff and private vendors. It also works with the state-run Georgia Technology Authority to assess potential threats passed along by federal agencies.

While we’ve previously given you an election primer on Georgia’s voting system and ballot security — voting machines are not connected to the Internet — we asked the Secretary of State’s Office for more information related specifically to its anti-hacking efforts. Here’s what they said you should know.

No.1 — Be prepared

Both private vendors and the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University do the heavy-lifting when it comes to routinely testing and scanning the state’s systems from cyber threats. This year, they ran multiple “full-scale” penetration tests and vulnerability scans of all systems, including of the statewide voter registration database, in preparation of the election.

No. 2 — Monitor traffic

The state also contracts with a security vendor to continuously monitor all network traffic. The idea, in layman’s terms, is to block and report real-time threats.

No. 3 — Have backup

The office ran two security assessments last year, looking at physical security of the system, its infrastructure and back-up procedures. Crisis management plans spell out what recovery methods to use. Redundancies are also built into the system.

No. 4 — Have more backup

A backup of the statewide voter registration system is updated every few seconds. The back-up is stored at a secure, off-site location and in the event of a full database crash, officials believe it would be back up and running at full capacity in as little as 30 minutes.

No. 5 — Keep it separate

On Election Night, counts coming in from the state’s 159 counties are kept completely isolated from the public website where we all go to see who’s winning. That separation aims to protect the integrity of the vote tallies. The servers being used by the counties are also not connected to the main network for security reasons. Once the counts are uploaded, they are then separately fed into the Election Night Reporting website to show votes cast across the state.

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