Officials shore up election security, defenses against cyberattacks ahead of 2024 Illinois primary

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Election officials shore up security ahead of Illinois primary
One month before the 2024 Illinois primary, election officials at all levels of government are working to shore up cybersecurity and build voter trust.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With one month to go until the 2024 Illinois primary election, state and local officials are trying to fend of both security concerns from the always-looming threat of foreign invaders to the voting system and from the unsupported notion that U.S. elections are rigged.

The I-Team checked in on the security pieces in play at a time when threats seem to come from every direction.

Illinois election officials wants voters to rest easy.

"We want them to know that they should feel secure about the state of the election system. From registration right through the casting of ballots and the tabulating of ballots," said Matt Dietrich with the Illinois State Board of Elections

Even though vote by mail consumes a fast-growing portion of the electorate, about 25% of polling places and election computer centers in Illinois' 108 local election authorities this year are each getting equal cybersecurity attention.

"To make sure that the smallest counties the smallest county clerk's offices, have access to the same cybersecurity resources and training that we have here at the state level that the larger jurisdictions like the city of Chicago or Cook County or any of the collar counties that they have as well. So what that's done is really give the state's 108 local election authorities, a very robust cybersecurity infrastructure," Dietrich said.

Tens of millions of state and federal tax dollars have been spent on shoring up election computers here since a Russian criminal group hacked into Illinois' voter database in 2016.

Authorities say the system is much tighter than eight years ago, when millions of pieces of voter data were siphoned off by foreign intruders. The 2016 breech was discovered by Illinois' Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center.

"Is our technology as good as the bad guys? We hope so, we definitely invested a lot of time, effort and resources into making sure that we're up to speed as we're analyzing the last case to see if we've missed something. Are we in the best position to outwit the bad guy, to figure something out fast?" said Aaron Kustermann, Chief Intelligence Officer for Illinois State Police.

On Tuesday the U.S. law enforcement agency that coordinates the nation's digital defense released a five page election security summary. The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, known as CISA, says the U.S. wants to identify and disrupt foreign threats to our election. But, the agency also warns that election officials and polling place workers are potential targets and advises them to be on the lookout for physical attackers.