The Nov. 8 general election is right around the corner. It’s an exciting time in Washington when we have the opportunity to elect people who will lead our communities, our state and our country.
Yet, it can also be an uncertain time. During election season — if not all year long — voters are fed a steady diet of election misinformation. Unfortunately, many voters believe the misinformation perpetuated by individuals and entities who strive to sow discord and doubt about our elections.
Today, “dis-informants” and other bad actors are targeting election security and the cybersecurity systems — such as the “Albert sensor” — that help protect the legitimacy and integrity of our elections. If you’ve never heard of the Albert sensor, don’t worry. Unless you are a cyber technician, you are most likely unfamiliar with it.
The Albert sensor is a Center for Internet Security (CIS) device that helps state and local governments protect their systems from network threats and malicious cyber activity. Albert sensors use software that, along with CIS’s 24/7 Security Operations Center, provides network and security alerts, and enhanced monitoring capabilities.
The purpose of the Albert sensor is to observe network traffic to see where data transactions are going or coming from. If data is being transmitted to or from an unknown internet protocol (IP) address, the Albert sensor will send an alert to CIS, initiating an analysis of the suspect event. If the event is deemed a threat, CIS will notify the entity where the alert was detected and provide a recommended mitigation method.
This year, dis-informants in several Washington counties took aim at the Albert sensor. They claimed that CIS has deep connections to Democratic operatives and is positioned to enable alteration of election results. These false claims misrepresent the nonpartisan duty CIS performs in helping watch for outside manipulation of American elections.
This off-base conjecture triggered conspiracy theorists to fantasize that the Albert sensor compromises security by prying into our election systems and data to change our votes and, ultimately, the outcomes of our elections. No such thing happens, or could happen, with this equipment or any other technology Washington counties use to ensure election integrity.
It’s time to counter these false and misleading narratives with facts:
• The Albert sensor is an “intrusion detection system,” meaning it monitors systems for any potential threats trying to gain access to a network. It does not have a defensive capability against active attacks.
• Malicious data can still cause problems with an office’s operations. The Albert sensor helps detect it and alerts our offices so we can act on it.
• Albert sensors are not connected to tabulation equipment. Tabulation machines are air-gapped, meaning they are not connected to the internet. An active network connection is required for an Albert device to monitor traffic.
• The Albert sensor can’t change data, nor can it read or record the contents of the data. It simply watches where data is going or coming from.
Visit cisecurity.org/services/albert-network-monitoring for more facts and to learn how the Albert sensor works.
As your Secretary of State, election security — including the fight against election disinformation — is among my top priorities. This includes strengthening our partnerships with state and federal entities to enhance cyber protections and increase cyber training and information-sharing.
My office is working closely with election officials across all of Washington’s 39 counties to stop cyber threats in their tracks and ensure our voters have confidence in the security, integrity and accuracy of our elections.
I encourage you to visit sos.wa.gov to learn more about how we protect your vote during and after an election. Contact your county elections office if you have any questions or concerns. Most importantly, be sure to get your election information from trusted, reliable sources.
Steve Hobbs is Washington’s 16th Secretary of State. Secretary Hobbs leads the office responsible for managing state and local elections, corporation and charity filings, Washington State Library, Washington State Archives and a number of other community programs.