- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lawmakers blasted the country’s top voting equipment vendors for not doing enough to assure ballot box security this midterm election cycle on the same day a top Homeland Security official told a House panel Russian hackers do not appear to be “tampering” with U.S. election infrastructure this year as intensively as they did in 2016.

States across the country are preparing in earnest for November’s general elections, elections that will be closely watched after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded the Kremlin orchestrated a major effort to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Thirteen states hold primaries next month.

At a Senate Rules and Administration Committee’s hearing on election safety Wednesday — the panel’s second on the topic in less than a month — Democratic Sen. Mark Warner had some sharp words for Texas-based Hart InterCivic, saying the company had failed to cooperate with a cybersecurity review of its voting equipment in his home state of Virginia. Mr. Warner is also the top Democrat in the Senate’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations for Hart InterCivic, countered that his firm enjoyed “strong working relationships” with federal, state and local election officials.

He told Mr. Warner that the over 100-year-old company had just a few customers in Virginia and that it was soon moving to different systems anyway. But when Mr. Warner continued prodding, Mr. Lichtenheld admitted Hart InterCivic did not provide Virginia with its machines for its review.

Committee Republicans also expressed anger at the level of preparation, following a Department of Homeland Security estimate that Russians had attempted to hack into at least 21 state election systems two years ago.

Several lawmakers faulted the record of Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which provides services in at least 42 states. ES&S did not testify, but senators noted that it was involved in what could have been a disastrous election breach, when security researchers found voter files for more than 1.8 million Illinois residents on an unsecured Amazon server under the company’s control last year.

Committee Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said efforts to shore up security holes this year were accelerating as states tapped into a $380 million fund Congress approved earlier this year for election infrastructure improvements. Some 49 states and territories have requested approximately $350 million of the funds, Mr. Blunt said.

Separately, Homeland Security Undersecretary Christopher C. Krebs told a House Homeland Security Committee also on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the 2018 elections “remain a potential target for Russian actors,” although evidence thus far suggests Kremlin efforts are not as targeted as in the presidential race of 2016.

“The intelligence community has yet to see any evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with our election infrastructure along the lines of 2016 or influencing the make-up of the House or Senate races,” Mr. Krebs told lawmakers, adding that Russians still appeared to be using social media to inflame American cultural and social issue divisions.

Moscow is working with “social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesman and other means to influence or inflame positions on opposite ends of controversial issues,” he said.


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