BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Hackers are working overtime to try and corrupt your vote. That’s not an exaggeration - to Alabama’s Secretary of State, it’s just a fact of life.
“We see people trying to break into our system hundreds of times daily, now it’s become thousands of times daily because people are trying to cause us ill or harm,” reports Secretary of State John Merrill.
But Merrill is equally as sure that the state has cyber defenses in place to stop that.
“Reports from the FBI starting in 2017 after the 2016 election and continuing till today have shown no evidence that a single vote has been changed,” Merrill says. “We don’t anticipate that occurring now, we’re confident that will not occur in Alabama.”
Securing your vote and then making sure we all get accurate results starts with security at the polling place, where none of the electronic polling machines are connected to the internet.
Local poll workers collect thumb drives connected to each machine with your votes on them, and only one person is allowed to hand deliver them to the county to count, with a matching security code to make sure the information is accurate and secure.
“We want to make sure we’re protecting the data presented to us by the local counties, and the counties are protecting the data presented to them by the vote,” Merrill says.
Counties then upload that data to the secure state database, which then reports them out to the Associated Press and the state’s website.
But this is where we’ve seen new concerns. Remember the hacking of a computer vendor that forced Tuscaloosa water customers to abandon paying bills online for a few days in September? That same company, Tyler Technologies, also sells an open data platform that some government officials around the country use to publish election data after it has been shared by county election officials. Alabama isn’t one of their customers.
“We have a high level of confidence about the security of our system,” says Merrill. “We continue to work with our public and private partners to ensure we will have a secure system in place.”
Merrill says he does worry about some other states where he doesn’t think election officials there have made enough preparations for the possibility of interference on Election Day.