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World News | Security Experts Warn of Foreign Cyber ​​Threats for 2024 Vote

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (AP) – Top state election and cybersecurity officials warned Thursday that Russia and other foreign adversaries pose a threat ahead of the 2024 election, pointing to a fragmented U.S. population of thousands of local voting jurisdictions. The system created a particular vulnerability.

Russia and Iran have interfered in previous elections, including by attempting to exploit internet-connected electronic voter databases. Neither country appeared to disrupt last year’s midterm elections amid wars and protests, but security officials say they expect America’s enemies to be more active as the next presidential election season approaches. The first primary is less than a year away.

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Jen Easterly, director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, cited Russia’s attack on Ukraine and a U.S.-led effort to provide arms and other aid to the besieged country as possible motives. She said the agency was “very concerned that Russia may retaliate against our critical infrastructure.”

She also mentioned China as a possible source of election interference, especially as relations between the two countries have soured, most recently because of suspected spy balloons floating around the country before being shot down by U.S. fighter jets.

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“We haven’t seen anything here yet, but I want to end with the word — not yet,” Easterly said at the annual meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Of particular concern is the fragmented nature of the US electoral system. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are approximately 10,000 local voting jurisdictions across the United States, including counties and townships.

Not all of them have the funds to buy new equipment, properly staff or update the training of election workers. Easterly said her agency’s top priority is to provide funding and expertise to what she calls a “target-rich, network-poor” entity.

Wisconsin Board of Elections Director Megan Wolf said her state has about 1,850 local officials running in elections, making it difficult for federal funds to be distributed in a way that works in the long run. Wisconsin is a perennial swing state that has finished by less than a percentage point in four of the past six presidential races, and since the 2020 election, electoral intrigue has found fertile ground. A day earlier, Wolf had spoken at a separate news conference with election and security officials.

“A lot of times, if you don’t see anything bad happen in the cybersecurity space, it gets forgotten,” said Wolf, who is also the president of the National Association of State Election Officers. “People don’t remember that this is a real and imminent threat, so it remains a real challenge to get those local jurisdictions and their governing bodies to actually embrace the concept and support a sustainable solution for local electoral jurisdictions, also”

Several secretaries of state have called for additional federal funding for local election offices, which not only must prepare for cybersecurity threats, but also have to deal with harassment and threats since 2020.

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes noted that election workers and even voters in the state’s most populous Maricopa County have been targeted for harassment and intimidation.

Stephen Spaulding, policy director of the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said the committee’s chair, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is trying to secure more election funding after a failed attempt late last year. Congress allocated $75 million in election security funding to states, but that was far less than many state and local officials had requested.

“In our view, it’s clear that last year’s combined investment required more than $75 million,” Spaulding said. “We’ve heard repeatedly about how sustainable funding can ensure our elections continue to run smoothly, promoting predictability and planning, and we’re trying to do that on a bipartisan basis.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)


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