Recent Towson University grad partnered with Harford County Board of Elections
According to Bloomberg, Russian hackers tried to infiltrate election systems in as many as 39 states during the 2016 presidential election. Recent Towson University graduate Megan Price and College of Business & Economics faculty adviser Natalie Scala partnered with the Harford County Board of Elections to improve the election process and increase the security surrounding election day voting.
“The election process is becoming a hot topic after the last election, and it’s important to understand the risks associated with the process and ways to ensure the elections are fair,” said Price. “Voters should have confidence that their votes were cast correctly and that the results are correct.”
While not a cybersecurity major, Price was drawn to working with Scala and her Cyber Tigers, a group of students who work on research projects focusing on the role of cybersecurity in business settings.
A personal connection led to the partnership with Harford County. During the project, Price analyzed the county’s election process to identify potential vulnerabilities and mitigations. She will also provide the county with educational materials and a process map for election judges, to help them understand the cybersecurity risks.
Her research for Harford County produced a positive result.
“I discovered that many states and counties in the U.S. use systems that have many cyber vulnerabilities,” Price noted. “I was surprised and happy to learn that Harford County and the State of Maryland mitigate most cyber risks by using paper ballots and optical scanners. The State of Maryland and Harford County can make a few small improvements to their election process that would help mitigate some of their risks, but in comparison to many other states, their process is relatively secure.”
Price’s research methods could be extended to other U.S. states and counties.
“Maryland uses the same election equipment and processes throughout the state, but the counties are allowed to implement other policies as they see fit,” said Price. “Each county can have different risks and mitigations in their election process. Also, other states use different election equipment and processes. In the future, other states and counties could be analyzed to develop a list of best practices and help encourage states and counties to use safer and more secure election processes.”
Price and Scala have received funding from CBE’s Summer Grant Program to extend their risk model and from TU’s School of Emerging Technologies to create online educational models to train election judges.
While Price may not be the one reviewing other counties’ election processes, she can already see how this experience will benefit her in the future.
“Risk management is a huge part of project management, as the success or failure of a project could be determined by an unforeseen risk. It is important to know how to identify, manage, and monitor risks to ensure the success of a project.”
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.