Charleston, W.Va. — West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is working to protect West Virginia election systems and to provide voters with confidence that our election results are true, accurate and protected against wrongdoing or fraud.
An important part of the Secretary of State’s job is taking meddling in any election – in any manner – very seriously. The designation of elections as “Critical Infrastructure” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security exemplifies the significance with which state and federal law enforcement treats potential threats against our democracy, as well as the efforts necessary to deter potential bad actors from engaging in all potential nefarious activities related to elections processes and systems.
During the 2018 election cycle, the Secretary of State referred a matter to the United States Attorney’s Office which might have been an unsuccessful attempt to gain uninvited access to the system. The incident occurred during the pilot rollout of West Virginia’s “military mobile voting solution,” an application for eligible overseas voters to receive and return their ballot securely using a mobile device.
The application utilizes multiple layers of biometric security (facial recognition and thumbprint) for identity verification, as well as Blockchain technology and voter-verified ballot receipts for security. Several security audits were conducted before and after the election. To date, the audits and assessments have all resulted in positive results. However, during the pilot rollout, the application vendor identified activity that could have been an attempt to gain uninvited access to the system.
“Every safeguard designed for the system was very successful and worked as designed: to gain as much information as possible, and protect the sanctity of the voters’ identities and ballots,” Secretary Warner said. “Although the details of the investigation cannot be disclosed, we can say that no votes were altered, impacted, viewed or in any way tampered with.”
Warner‘s office fully investigates every attempt to gain uninvited access into any election system to discourage and deter any attempt at intrusion into West Virginia’s election systems.
“Elections in America and West Virginia are secure,” he said. “Heading into the Presidential Election of 2020, it is time to communicate with our voters that we take every single potential threat very seriously. We want our voters, and especially every bad actor, to know that no expense will be spared to investigate even unsuccessful attempts of gaining uninvited access to any portion of any election system.
“There’s not a shred of evidence that even a single vote was changed in the 2018 election. Because of our hard work and our investments, all of our systems worked according to plan, and more robust security measures and protocols are being deployed ahead of 2020.”
Statement by WV Secretary of State Mac WarnerUnited States Federal CourthouseCharleston, West Virginia
Good afternoon, I am Mac Warner, West Virginia Secretary of State, and I am at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia. Next to me is Mike Stuart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. As Secretary of State, I am the chief election officer for the state of West Virginia. And I am responsible for the integrity of our elections.
Yesterday, the US took its first action under Executive Order 13848, “Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election.” This Executive Order warns countries they may face sanctions should they interfere in US elections. Yesterday, the US Government targeted four entities, seven individuals, three aircraft, and a yacht, all associated with the Internet Research Agency and its financier, Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
There has been much ado about foreign meddling in our elections, with specific concern about Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. We’re also keeping an eye on terrorist organizations and other bad actors who may try to influence our elections.
Here at the outset, I want to assure everyone that during the most recent election not one vote was changed in West Virginia. The influence attempts have been directed at our minds, at influencing public opinion – there is absolutely no evidence anywhere that actual votes were changed, or election night reporting has been compromised.
October is cybersecurity month and I have been talking to people throughout West Virginia with a special emphasis on high school students about the importance of cybersecurity. I put emphasis on high school students because of their use of social media and social media has become the weapon of choice of the bad actors.
As West Virginians, we are proud of our contributions to the defense of America and our way of life. Per capita, West Virginians volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces as much or more than any other state in the union. Because of this, it makes sense for West Virginia to be a leader in making it easy for soldiers to vote. That is why in the 2018 election West Virginia developed a mobile voting solution for soldiers and their families deployed from home, and overseas voters.
In last year’s election, we detected activity that may have been an attempt to penetrate West Virginia’s mobile voting process. No penetration occurred and the security protocols to protect our election process worked as designed. The IP addresses from which the attempts were made have been turned over to the FBI for investigation. The investigation will determine if crimes were committed.
Our actions today here at the state level parallel the actions being taken at the Federal level. U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said, “Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy, and we will use our authorities against anyone seeking to undermine our processes… (we) will work tirelessly to protect our electoral process and aggressively pursue (anyone who) attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections.” Here in WV, we hereby put people on notice that elections in West Virginia and across the United States are sacrosanct. No attempts to interfere with our elections will be tolerated.
This announcement today is to warn people that any attempt to hack an election will be fully investigated by the FBI and turned over to prosecutors when appropriate. I want to assure everyone in West Virginia that absolutely no penetration occurred, no votes were changed, and the integrity of the elections in West Virginia was absolutely secure. Our security systems worked completely as designed.
This announcement is made for its deterrent effect. This is to caution people to not even attempt to mess with an election. Even if well intentioned, the mere act of attempting to probe a voter registration list, a mobile device, or any aspect of the election process may amount to a criminal offense. We have the 2020 election coming up, and everyone should now know that local, state, and federal officials take election security very seriously.
Let’s all take this month of October, Cyber Security Month, and focus on security. We use the slogan, “Protect, Detect, Correct” as a way to keep in mind all that needs to be done in the cyber arena. Protect yourself, your devices, and your systems with anti-virus software, complicated passwords, and firewalls. Stay vigilant to detect any intrusions, malware, or phishing attempts. It has been estimated 90% of successful cyber-attacks result from human error – clicking on something people should not. If you are the victim and need to correct a cyber-attack, shut down your system immediately, and report the incident to your IT department, authorities, or police as appropriate.
Thank you for attending this announcement, and for helping get the word out about securing elections and cyber security.
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