IDAHO — In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security added elections to the country's critical infrastructure. This led the Idaho Secretary of State's office to focus more on cybersecurity for election infrastructure and on cyber hygiene.
"How do you handle your passwords, how do you handle your network, how do you handle the physical space around your computers?" said Chad Houcke, the chief deputy Secretary of State.
This also means adding protections like requiring a certain number of people to be present when a certain process is carried out.
"The important thing for Idahoans to understand is Idaho's elections are secure," he said.
Boise State University Computer Science Department Chair Amit Jain said one of the big ways Idaho is less susceptible to cyber threats is how the state's elections are set up.
"Elections are highly decentralized. That is good news because the more decentralized you are the harder it is for someone to hack it," Jain said.
But keeping things secure requires a continued focus. In 2018, the Secretary of State's office brought together Idaho's County Clerks for a training exercise with the help of BSU.
"We designed the whole election cycle. You take six months of the election cycle in all the way leading up to the election day, you simulate it all in one day," Jain said. "We had students playing different roles, injecting attacks, misinformation, different things happening."
The team from BSU was able to give the clerks feedback on how they responded to different parts of the exercise, but the training and the partnership with BSU didn't end there. This training for County Clerks continued each year and BSU continues to stay up to date with research that will help the Secretary of State's office in keeping elections secure.
The team at BSU has also been researching working on the best method for audits. During the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill creating a set procedure for regular post-election audits.