FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s front-line elections officials received cybersecurity training Thursday in another preventive step against hacking, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said.
County clerks statewide attended training by the federal Department of Homeland Security on preventing and detecting cyberattacks, Grimes said.
The session comes a few weeks before the state’s May 22 primary election. Kentuckians will have a long ballot this year with races for county positions, the legislature and Congress.
“We work every day to monitor and fortify our defenses against any actor — foreign or domestic — that seeks to undermine our democratic process,” Grimes said. “Today’s trainings are crucial to protecting, defending and increasing confidence in our elections.”
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The training is meant to help county clerks guard against breaches of voter registration systems, Grimes said. The goal is to expand the training to Kentucky’s thousands of precinct election officers this summer ahead of the November election, she said.
Grimes said Kentucky was not targeted by Russia in the 2016 election.
But those safeguarding the state’s election system are confronted by repeated “probes” from would-be hackers — abroad and in this country — attempting to access the system, she said. Those probes do not extend to voting machines, which are not connected to the internet, her office said.
And Grimes pointed to a round of indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller accusing 13 Russians of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. He charged them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Make no mistake, we have foreign adversaries that are seeking to try to get across the message that democracy is broken and that it does not work,” Grimes said. “We are here to say that it does, and we are going to defend it every step of the way.”
To secure Kentucky’s election system, officials need to recognize potential vulnerabilities, Grimes said. Other steps are being taken to protect election integrity. One measure is to require that all future election equipment purchased in Kentucky provide a voter-verified paper trail, she said. Federal funding will help Kentucky transition to a fully paper-backed voting system.
The state also is working with a cybersecurity firm to strengthen the security of Kentucky’s election processes, she said. Grimes outlined the state’s anti-hacking efforts to reporters after a meeting of an election integrity task force that she created in 2012.