Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, preview of the committee’s findings on Russia’s hacks of state election systems on March 20, 2018
Photo: AP

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a draft of recommendations to improve the nation’s election infrastructure, outlining the need for IT upgrades, universal adoption of paper ballots, and increased funding to safeguard against future cyberattacks.

In preparation for the 2018 midterm elections, primaries for which have already begun, the committee offered a six-point plan to enhance election security. The plan focuses largely on defending against cyberattacks by increasing the flow of federal resources to states and by improving information sharing about threats throughout the government.

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“States should rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems,” the committee said. “At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Russian hackers targeted the election systems of up to 21 states prior to the 2016 election. In Illinois, hackers were reportedly able to gain access to the records of tens of thousands of voters; election officials insist, however, that there’s no evidence records were altered or deleted.

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Many state and local officials were kept in the dark when it came to threats facing their voting systems because the officials lacked proper clearance. The committee recommended Tuesday that DHS expedite security clearances for appropriate officials and asked the intelligence community to work faster to declassify information whenever possible.

States are being urged to take advantage of monitoring capabilities offered by the DHS and told to implement two-factor authentication on all voting systems.

The committee said it was crucial to pass new federal legislation increasing assistance and establishing a voluntary grant program. “States should use grant funds to improve cybersecurity by hiring additional Information Technology staff, updating software, and contracting vendors to provide cybersecurity services, among other steps,” the committee said.

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