Katie Bernard
KU Statehouse Wire Service
The office of Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced plans to enhance the security of the interstate crosscheck program, which holds sensitive voter data, before states upload new data.
The Kansas House election committee was told last week that those security enhancements will include a review conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. The review will delay the time frame during which states can upload their voter registration data. States typically upload their data in January. This year they will be unable to upload until after the Department of Homeland Security review.
According to Director of Elections Bryan Caskey, the department has been working to revamp the security of all their systems for more than a year.
“When the first reports of cyber security problems for the presidential election in 2016 hit, this is a new territory for election administrators,” Caskey said. “Since then we’ve been trying to catch up from a security standpoint.”
The interstate crosscheck program, which started in 2005, is organized by Kobach’s office and coordinates with other states in the country to compare voter data and ensure voters are not registering in multiple states. In 2017, 28 states participated in the program.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Illinois, a state which participated in the crosscheck program in the past, would delay sending data until security measures were updated. This came after the program faced criticism for failing to adequately secure data. A report by Pro Publica, an online investigative newsroom, revealed that usernames and passwords to the system were shared by officials in Arkansas over email, and passwords were overly simplistic.
The office is now moving the transmission of data from Arkansas to Kansas. Caskey said the reports by Pro Publica were part, but not all, of the reason for the move.
“We’ve been reviewing all of our security protocols and we just felt more comfortable, with the current security environment,” Caskey said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Rep. Pam Curtis (D-Kansas City) questioned Caskey on the program’s security of the program, and said she was concerned about its vulnerability to hacking.
“We need to be concerned about all of the systems that we have and make sure we’re doing whatever we can to make sure we have the security measures in place,” Caskey said.
Elections Committee Vice Chair, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby), however, said he was not concerned with the security of crosscheck.
“During the presentation today I was relieved to hear Bryan say that it was not online, which makes it more difficult to get to,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think at this point I share those (security) concerns due to how long the program’s been active and also how often they are keeping up security on the program.”
Caskey said during his testimony that the program had never been hacked.