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Local officials warn about attempts to hack election security

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 10:02 PM CDT
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TREMPEALEAU CO., Wis. (WEAU) - Eight days remain until the election, as counties and municipalities across the nation are putting together their final preparations.

One local county is reassuring the community that despite an alert of a potential threat it received this month, it is confident the election will be secured.

Tim Robertson and the rest of the Trempealeau County Information Technology Department are ready for next week’s election.

Robertson says he and the Trempealeau County Clerk are confident the election will be safe and secure in the end.

“The county clerk is 100 percent confident in the official results and the election security for our voting machines. They aren’t connected to the internet, the tabulations aren’t done over the internet, and the official results are delivered to the state in a process that we believe is secure,” said Robertson, the county’s IT Director.

However, a week and a half ago the department received a red alert for the first time from an organization that the county relies on for security issues.

While he could not share details on the threat, he said there have been no known attacks that have hit the county besides what he calls the normal phishing attempts.

That’s why he is urging all county employees to be cautious on their computers leading up to Nov. 3.

“You definitely want to go towards the targets that don’t have the funds and the resources to fight back. That’s the danger for an organization such as ours, we just don’t have the IT muscle and budget to be able to respond as quickly as maybe some of the bigger cities and communities,” explained Robertson.

The most concerning part for Robertson, the unofficial results that are posted by the county getting tampered with.

“That’s how we feel like we are most exposed. If somebody were to click on one of those links in those phishing emails and have their credentials taken and all of the sudden the reports that go out, the unofficial results for the election would be fouled and then we’d have citizens thinking that something’s wrong,” he said.

The official results of the election won’t be made available until after the board of canvassers meets in each municipality and county about a week after the election.

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