election security

Russia's trolling specialists have evolved their disinformation and agitation techniques to become subtler and tougher to track, according to new research unveiled on Thursday.

A cache of Instagram posts captured by researchers showed that the Russians were "better at impersonating candidates" and that influence-mongers "have moved away from creating their own fake advocacy groups to mimicking and appropriating the names of actual American groups," wrote Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin professor who analyzed the material with her team.

When primary voters go to the polls in South Carolina on Saturday, they'll be the first in the nation to use all-new voting equipment. It's one of about a dozen states replacing all or most of their voting machines this year, in part because of security concerns after Russian interference in the 2016 election.

South Carolina officials are eager to emphasize the reliability of their state's equipment following the Iowa caucuses debacle, where a flawed app delayed the reporting of accurate results for weeks.

At the Schweinhaut Senior Center in suburban Maryland, about a dozen seniors gather around iPads and laptops, investigating a suspicious meme of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Plastered over her image, in big, white block letters, a caption reads:

"California will receive 13 extra seats in Congress by including 10 million illegal aliens in the 2020 U.S. Census."

voting booths
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Voting rights advocates, computer security experts and some county elections officials gathered at the Ohio Statehouse for a cybersecurity initiative. And some say they feel like they have the information they need to protect Ohio’s upcoming primary.

Attorney General William Barr has issued new restrictions on opening investigations into politically sensitive individuals or entities, including a requirement that he approve any inquiry into a presidential candidate or campaign.

Barr outlined the new policies in a three-page memo obtained by NPR as the Democratic primaries are underway and the country gears up for November's presidential vote. The memo was first reported by The New York Times.

Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election caught then-President Barack Obama off guard, and he and advisers were partly paralyzed with indecision over how to respond, a new Senate report concludes.

The study by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that the government was "not well-postured" at the time Obama's administration began to detect and assess the wave of active measures launched by Russia against the presidential race.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose and board of elections officials at his press event on February 5, 2020.
Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau

Franklin County is among the 90% of Ohio counties considered compliant with the Secretary of State’s order to improve election security. Just eight counties are considered incomplete, with two weeks until voters start casting early ballots for the March presidential primary.

Local governments across the United States could perform a simple upgrade to strengthen voters' confidence that they are what they say they are: use websites that end in .gov.

Federal officials control the keys to the ".gov" top-level domain, making it less likely that somebody could get one fraudulently and use it to fool people.

Domains that end in .com or .org, meanwhile, could be set up by attackers to try to intercept users seeking information from real sources.

Paranoia is the best strategy for political campaigns when it comes to digital security. After all, who can forget the massive hack of the Hillary Clinton campaign's emails during the last presidential election and its embarrassing consequences?

The reelection campaign of Maine Sen. Angus King took this to heart. Lisa Kaplan, King's digital director, regularly sent out fake emails to her staff to "see who would click on them." Those emails during the 2018 campaign looked real — but they were not.

Top election officials from all 50 states are meeting in Washington this week to prepare for 2020 — a gathering amid widespread concern over whether the upcoming elections will be fair and accurate, as well as free of the kind of foreign interference that marred the 2016 campaign.

Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose is implementing a new voter registration form for Ohioans who are about to be removed from the rolls.
Ohio Senate

Legislation meant to improve Ohio’s defenses against cybersecurity attacks goes into effect Friday.

Weeks before the first votes of the 2020 presidential election, Americans report a high level of concern about how secure that election will be and worry about the perils of disinformation, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll.

Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they believed the U.S. is not very prepared or not prepared at all to keep November's election safe and secure.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

The FBI says it plans to warn state and local election officials if it discovers cyberattacks this year. It hopes the new policy will build new bridges to more authorities involved with election security.

The federal government has been criticized for poor communication with election officials during and since the Russian attack on the presidential election in 2016.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is ordering county elections officials to be on guard for the possibility of a cyber attack from Iran after entities have seen an increase in suspicious cyber activity around the country.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says the state’s voting systems are secure and ready for 2020. But Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters is concerned about voter turnout.

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