WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security is providing security assistance to 46 states and 35 counties and local election agencies in the run-up to next week's election, according to media reports.
For months, the department has been urging states and counties to avail themselves of security assistance from Homeland Security officials to ensure valuable voter data is protected from hackers, specifically Russian-linked groups that have already targeted Democratic groups in an apparent attempt to sway the election's outcome.
Homeland Security's prime role in helping states and counties is to perform security scans on all election-related hardware connected to the Internet in an attempt to identify potentially vulnerable areas a hacker might discover and exploit. So far, only a handful of states have experienced instances of election-related hacking, according to ABC News, though about half of states have experienced some type of attempted cyber intrusion.
It was widely reported over the summer that Illinois had about 90,000 voters' registration information compromised. It is also believed that Florida's election equipment was hacked, though the extent to which anything was compromised remains unclear.
Voter registration information is valuable to garden variety hackers because of the wealth of personal information available in one place, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, and in some states, driver's license numbers and the last four digits of a Social Security number. Such information can allow a hacker to commit identity theft or other financial crimes, while having no interest in disrupting the election itself.
Once they gain access, however, hackers could conceivably wreak havoc by deleting or altering voter registration information, gumming up the process at the polls, especially in states that require poll workers to verify a voter's identity.