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Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Image

Very few (only 4%) of state elections offices across the 50 states, Washington D.C. and the three U.S. territories use adequate protection to keep hackers from sending email from those offices' official email addresses, according to a new study by the security company Anomali.

Why it matters: Nothing in the basic email protocol guarantees that a sender's address is authentic. To do that, web sites need to add a handful of additional security protocols. That could lead to voter suppression if a dirty tricks-wielding campaign sends emails from the official account saying that polling places have moved, election days changed, or groups of people are no longer registered to vote.

The Anomali study looked at 6 different security protocols: DANE, DKIM, DMARC, DNSSEC, SPF and STARTTLS.

  • DKIM, DMARC and SPF all have different functions to protect recipients from fake or “spoofed” email addresses.
  • DNSSEC, DANE and STARTTLS work together to ensure the message reaches the right recipient without being altered along the way.

The details: If a website fails to have SPF and DMARC in place and configured to prevent it, a bad guy can fake (or "spoof") an email from the site.

  • Properly set up, SPF identifies if a server has permission to send an email from a domain and DMARC tells an email client to either reject emails that fail SPF or mark them as spam.
  • Only 4% of elections sites had both set up in a way to prevent spoofing.
  • DKIM ensures specific emails were in fact sent by the senders listed. Only 10 percent of states use DKIM.
  • None of the security protocols had even 50% adoption accross the states.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.