Commissioners discuss election security

Tuesday, the Moore County Commissioners heard a report concerning updates to Moore County infrastructure and election security.

“Moore County has a solid cybersecurity system and is on the right track.” This was the North Carolina National Guard report, which conducted a security analysis earlier this year.

“There are a lot of malicious actors and ransomware events happening across North Carolina and the nation,” said Chris Butts, Moore County information technology director. “Many people think spending a lot of money is the key to safety, but it is procedures and staff training.

“Moore County is rolling out AI (artificial intelligence) to automate virus responses. This will speed up the reaction to events by cutting response times from minutes to seconds. There have been instances of a malicious email coming in, and it was shut down within minutes. However, during that time, several users were compromised. Fortunately, we have never had an entire department shut down but have had to isolate several workstations.

“It is important to know that all Moore County election machines are not connected to the internet. Both the voting machines and Election Day laptops are offline, and that is by design.”

There’s never been a successful attack on North Carolina voting machines, according to Butts. Under state laws, all voting machines in North Carolina must use paper ballots to allow a paper trail. All voting machines used in North Carolina are certified and tested by federal and state election officials. After every election, and before the elections are certified, audits are committed to looking for signs of tampering, ballot box stuffing, or other malicious acts.

According to Butts, informed voters are an essential part of secure elections.

“Every voter can help with election security by voting, checking their ballot, and reporting any problems or concerns with the voting process to a poll worker,” said Butts. “Additionally, voters need to be sure that they get accurate information about the elections from reliable sources and confirm the information before sharing it on social media. We are trying to change the culture of security in the county.”

Moore County Information Security Officer Kay Ingram proposed the creation of a formal security program. This would work to protect the county’s information systems.

The county goes to extreme measures to protect election data. According to Moore County Elections Director Towanna Dixon, the results are tallied after an election closes. The precinct results are then put on a thumb drive and taken to the elections office. At that point, it is uploaded to an isolated network.

According to Dixon, even the thumb drives (by state law) must be US-made. The data is encrypted before being uploaded. After the election, the thumb drives are stored for archival purposes. Under questioning from Moore County Commissioner Nick Picerno, Dixion confirmed the county does an audit confirming the paper ballots match the election machine.

In other business, the commissioners approved the purchase of three Ford F-250 trucks purchased through a state program. Local dealers were allowed to bid on it but were not able to meet the state prices. The vehicles are being replaced due to high mileage. The total cost is $133,000.

In 2008, the county signed up for a low-interest loan to expand the water and sewer lines in Vass. One of the stipulations was that 100 people had to sign up for the service and pay the $1,800 connection fee.

Vass crossed that threshold last year, and the county began the process of acquiring the necessary land easements.

It was necessary that the contracts be awarded by the end of the current fiscal year (Oct. 30). The county awarded three contracts totaling $7.2 million. The county is also applying for a couple of grants that could offset some of the cost of the project.

The next commissioner’s meeting is a special meeting on Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. at the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center located at 8040 US Highway 15/501. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss school resource officer positions.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice. Contact him at [email protected].

File photo.

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