Elections security was discussed during the St. Francois County Commission meeting Tuesday at the courthouse annex.
County Clerk Kevin Engler explained that the county will work with two groups to make sure the county’s computer systems are as secure as possible to prevent hacking.
“We are going to do cybersecurity checks of the elections primarily, one is through a federal grant and the other is the state,” he said. “The state has gotten a few million dollars to check our election cybersecurity.
“I signed up, because there is no cost to the county. They will come in and look at our hardware and software, and try to test it. They go fishing to see if there’s problems.”
An audience member asked about who is doing the cybersecurity checks.
Engler explained that one is a federal government agency through the Department of Homeland Security and the other one is a private company contracted by the state.
“The state just contracted through this company to come in and provide free to the counties cyber evaluation on all their electronics in the county,” he said. “It doesn’t cost us anything. The contract reads because the state gets involved, the secretary of state’s office has to approve their payment. They have to show to the secretary of state that they met these criteria when they come in and audit us.”
According to Engler, the county clerk’s office is solely responsible for the implementation of the program because it is primarily based on securing the election procedures. It is not necessary for the commission to take action on the matter.
“It falls under elections, which is my purview; it is a pass-through from the federal government,” he said. “We are going to go ahead and apply for that.”
An audience member asked if the cybersecurity company would monitor an actual election.
Engler answered that the company would work on the network beforehand.
“This is a company that specializes in cybersecurity,” he said. “Since almost all of our elections are done electronically, they will come in separately and look at our process and how we handle things, our lines. They give a report to us and to the secretary of state, they are required to give it to the secretary of state, because they are the ones paying for it. And they are paying through a grant making sure that elections are tougher, not impossible, but tougher to hack.”
After the meeting, St. Francois County IT Director Dan Duncan added some details as to what these groups were going to do for the county.
“It will overlap what we currently have as far as our in-house cybersecurity tools,” he said. “We’re going to have them cover everything, because our main connection for the internet is here. It pipes out to [the Weber Road Facility] via VPN and pipes back here. So, obviously they are going to have to start here when they do their inspection, so we are going to have them cover the entire network here.
“It’s nice to see that the government is being proactive for cybersecurity, especially for next year. So many elections nationwide and there are four here in St. Francois County alone.”
Duncan wanted to remind everyone that September is cybersecurity awareness month and everyone should be careful of how they use the internet and computers.
“A few weeks ago, several municipalities in Texas got hacked,” he said. “It’s not just there, it’s everywhere.”
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org