San Mateo County civil grand jury finds election channels vulnerable to cyber attacks

San Mateo County's online election information channels, such as its results website and official social media accounts, are vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to a new report issued Wednesday by the Civil Grand Jury.

The report outlines two scenarios where the cyber attacks could be used to misinform the media and the general public about election results and potentially discourage people from participating in the election due to frustration with fraudulent results.

"These concerns are not theoretical," the jury wrote in a news release, citing a 2010 incident where hackers hijacked the county's results website.

While much public attention has been focused on protecting the integrity of voter registration databases, voting machines and vote tabulation from cyber attacks, less attention is paid to securing online communications with the public regarding registration and voting, as well as information about election results.

The report explores steps that could be taken to improve the security of official county communication channels, including the use of robust multi-factor authentication for accessing the elections website and social media accounts.

The Grand Jury also recommends that the county take advantage of free consulting services offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help local governments assess and enhance the security of their online systems.

The office of Mark Church, assessor-county clerk-recorder and chief elections officer for San Mateo County, is currently reviewing the report and declined to comment further on the matter.