With election season fast approaching, there’s no more crucial a time as to highlight the potential dangers in terms of hacking. Gov. Bruce Rauner recently proclaimed October as Cyber Security Awareness Month in Illinois in order to highlight the “vital role that cyber security plays in identifying, protecting its citizens from and responding to cyber threats.”
    Cyber security is a concern even on the local level, as Livingston County departments have discussed, prepared and even experienced incidents of infiltration into its security.
    “Our reliance on information systems continues to grow,” Rauner said. “Technology makes our world increasingly open with easy access to information, so it is more important than ever to prioritize cyber security. Protecting critical systems and the privacy of our citizens’ data is a top priority and this month recognizes the criticality of that effort and the progress we’re making in Illinois.”
    In order to better facilitate that need for cyber protection, the state recently created the office of Chief Information Security Officer, with the aim of “enhancing protection of nearly 6 billion records to avoid over $11 billion in risk due to potential data breaches and launching a cyber awareness program for nearly 46,000 state employees to build a stronger cyber protection program at the State of Illinois.”
    “This last year, we implemented Illinois’ first Cybersecurity Operations Center (SOC) to strengthen our security monitoring capabilities cementing a proactive approach to cyber threats,” new Illinois CISO Chris Hill said. “We have continued to increase the capabilities of the SOC including 24/7 cyber monitoring. We now have the ability to rapidly identify cyber-attacks and provide immediate response and remediation.”
    In Livingston County, recent months have highlighted the need for a greater emphasis on cyber security. Earlier this week at the Livingston County Board’s IT Committee meeting, Jon Sear, the county’s network and computer systems administrator, reported that just last month, an inmate at the Livingston County Jail had managed to undermine the lockup’s phone system and make thousands of dollars-worth of free calls. Sear said the inmate was caught, however.
    But other concerns have been raised as well, particularly as it concerns elections. As far back as August 2016, County Clerk Kristy Masching told the county it was in its best interest to secure newer electronic voting machines; however, with an estimated price tag of $461,500, there was a bit of sticker shock, and the most recent update on the county pursuing new voting machines suggested 2019 as the year of purchase.
    In June, Sear and Masching attended a cybersecurity conference hosted by the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders, the emphasis being the security of electronic voting. In a report to the IT Committee the next month, Sear said the conference was eye-opening, and told committee members that the current electronic voting machines in use by the county were “pretty much obsolete.”
    At the time, however, Sear indicated that Masching’s capital request was in for next year in order to get the obsolete voting machines replaced.