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Illinois National Guard To Help Protect Against Cyberattacks On Election Day

Flick: Joe Shlabotnik

With only three weeks until Election Day, the Illinois State Board of Elections wants to reassure voters their information is safe from cyberattacks. 

The push comes after the Russian military allegedly hacked the state’s electronic voter registration database in summer 2016. Now, the Illinois National Guard will have specialists on-call – just in case something goes wrong on Election Day.

Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes said this is the first time the reserve military force has partnered with the elections board. “These are very highly specialized IT personnel that defend the [U.S.] Department of Defense network when we are doing our military responsibility," he said.

Hayes said the team will utilize the same skill and ability used in their everyday tasks to help guard any intrusions during the election. If a local election authority reports something unusual, someone from the IT personnel can be dispatched anywhere in the state within the hour, officials said during a Tuesday afternoon conference in Chicago. 

The 2016 breach exposed information from 76,000 voters. The breach did not affect any of the systems used for voting or tabulating results, which are run by local election authorities across the state.

Kyle Thomas, director of voter registration and systems for the elections board, said the attack has led to increased security measures.

“There’s been a lot more partnerships formed – nationally and across the state. A lot more resources are being thrust at this and a lot more attention is being driven in this direction,” he said.

Federal and state money is helping those local authorities perform risk assessments and get additional training against cyberattacks.

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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