Eagle County clerk: Cyber security in Eagle County elections is solid (column) | VailDaily.com

Eagle County clerk: Cyber security in Eagle County elections is solid (column)

Regina O’Brien
Valley Voices

Regina O’Brien

On Monday, Oct. 16, coordinated election ballots will be mailed to more than 30,000 registered Eagle County voters. The Clerk & Recorder's Office has been very busy preparing the ballots, compiling TABOR notices, which were mailed on Friday, Oct. 6, conducting equipment hardware testing and guiding logic and accuracy testing.

Through all of these processes, election security and cyber security are always top of mind. With election season upon us, it seemed like a good time to share some general information about the election systems we use, as well as some of our cyber security best practices.

There are two systems used to administer elections in Eagle County. The first is the Colorado Statewide Voter Registration System called "SCORE." SCORE is maintained by the Colorado Secretary of State and is used by all counties. By necessity, Colorado's voter registration system is connected to the internet. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed SCORE was not penetrated in the 2016 election.

The Eagle County Clerk and Recorder's election team uses SCORE on a daily basis to maintain accurate voter rolls. During election season, bipartisan teams of election judges also use SCORE to assist voters. Before being granted access to SCORE, each user must pass a law enforcement background check and a cyber security class. Staff and judges are required to establish strong, complex passwords and use two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication is the second layer of security, using a randomly selected set of information that is only known by and assigned to one user. Passwords and two-factor authentication information are changed on a regular basis.

The second part of Eagle County's election system is the ballot creation and vote-counting system itself. Eagle County's Dominion Voting System is completely separate from SCORE. The Dominion system does not connect to the internet, and it is completely isolated from linking physically or wirelessly to any internal or external system. This kind of security measure is referred to as an "air-gap." Furthermore, the system is under tight physical controls in secure rooms with restricted access.

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A robust audit is performed after each election using the paper ballots that were cast. All votes in Colorado are cast on paper, leaving a trail that can be audited and verified. Teams of election judges participate from start to finish in the audit process.

The Clerk & Recorder's Office works very closely with the county and state information-technology teams to ensure that the latest security scans, monitoring software and updates are installed on our computer systems. We are trained to be on the lookout for any type of email scam. We maintain strong password and two-factor authentication barriers. We even engage in "secret shopper" cyber security tests with our IT team to test our physical cyber security practices. We, along with our county and state IT partners, remain vigilant on a daily basis.

Eagle County voters can be confident in the integrity of our county's election security and results. Past success does not lead to complacency, and the Clerk's Office will continue to maintain this high level of security.

Regina O'Brien is the Eagle County clerk and recorder. She can be reached at regina.obrien@eaglecounty.us.