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Symantec Offers Free Website Security Service for Midterm Elections

Security vendor offers US election jurisdictions its Project Dolphin phishing/website spoofing-detection service and security resources.

Symantec is the latest security vendor to offer pro bono security services to US elections commissions and political parties and candidates amid hacking and disruption concerns in the midterm elections.

The security giant is providing for free its Project Dolphin website spoof-detection and prevention service as well as resources including election security best practices and security training videos for election jurisdictions, poll workers, candidates, and political parties. Project Dolphin can, for instance, detect phishing sites posing as legitimate campaign or state election commission websites.

Election jurisdications and parties who opt for the service would register their domains and login pages with the service so it can detect imposter sites, says Eric Chien, a Fellow with the Symantec Security Technology and Response division. Chien says the company plans to run the service for at least six months, and could expand it to the 2020 elections as well.

State and local election jurisdictions and campaigns traditionally have tight budgets and resources, especially when it comes to security. Security vendors are trying to fill that gap, especially for vulnerable elections websites, with free services for the fall midterms - Cloudflare, Google, Microsoft, Akamai, Synack, Thycotic, McAfee, Cylance, and Valimail, already had announced free services.

Philanthropy aside, the pro bono services also give those vendors a foot in the door for potential future business.

US elections officials are still haunted by the Russian-meddling and hacking activities during the 2016 US presidential election, but many jurisdictions haven't had the time or funds to make major security upgrades. While voting machine hacking has been in the spotlight since researchers easily cracked multiple machines at the DEF CON conference in 2017 and 2018, security experts say websites are the easier mark for nation-state and other hackers breaking in remotely.

"There are a lot of soft targets, like state election commissions," Chien says. "Imagine them getting hacked and someone changes all of the polling information ... or leaks and wipes [data] or changes an address and you're not in the voter registration roll anymore."

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