Nov 8, 2018

What an unhacked election means for election security

A woman puts a ballot into a scanning machine

A voter submits a ballot in Hermosa Beach, Ca. on Tuesday. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

No one appears to have hacked the 2018 midterm elections. That's pretty good!

Yes, but: Concern over what happened in 2016 fueled much of the legislative momentum to increase election security. After a successful election, some of that impetus could vanish.

What they're saying: "It was clear that the stepped-up effort and heightened awareness around election security helped in the midterm elections," said Jay Kaplan, co-founder and CEO of Synack, a security firm that pledged more than $1 million to a pro bono election security service for states.

  • "A united, proactive effort on election security can defend our democracy from our adversaries, but we absolutely cannot get complacent," he said.

The bottom line: States still lack adequate funding to purchase less hackable equipment, including machines with auditable paper backups and other security enhancements. Not all states that can audit machine accuracy, do audit machine accuracy — useful against hacking or bugs. And while the bevy of companies volunteering services, like Synack, is helpful, the effort lacks coordination.

The outlook: Many states are still gung-ho about improving security.

  • "This doesn’t change our attention to election security concerns," said a representative from the Colorado secretary of state's office. "This is a race without a finish line because the nature of threats is continually evolving and requires vigilance."

But it will take until January to see whether the new Congress has matching enthusiasm.

And the midterm elections aren't over. There are still recounts and runoff elections aplenty before this election is totally out of the woods.

Go deeper