Public records indicate county clerk reached out to the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center following election night website crash

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Public records obtained by WCIA indicate Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons reached out to the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC) the morning after election night.

The county’s website crashed shortly after polls closed on April 6. It was back up and running by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Roughly two hours later, Ammons sent an email to STIC to report “suspicious activity.”

“I asked them [website vendor Image Graphics] if they thought it was an attack/hack and initially they said no but when I said it was strange that the site hasn’t had any issues similar to this for over a year and that it happened on election night, right around the time we post our election results, then he said, ‘that’s a good point,'” Ammons wrote in the email to STIC. “At this time they have offered no reason as to why/how this happened. I plan to speak with them within the next hour and hope to hear something more concrete.”

Email from Aaron Ammons to STIC

Alana (Sorrentino) Mundhenke, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Program Manager for the State Board of Elections and STIC, responded.

“If possible, would your website vendor be able to provide any web logs?” Mundhenke asked. “This may help determine if the website had an attack or if it was caused by an abundance of traffic hitting the website. I would also be interested to know how the website is being hosted. Is your website hosted locally or through a large company like Amazon?”

Further emails show a meeting was set up via Zoom for Monday, April 12 between the clerk’s office, state officials and Image Graphics.

WCIA reached out to Ammons and deputy clerk Angie Patton to ask for updates on the meeting and investigation.

Patton emailed WCIA back, declining an interview and saying “all that came out of it was we sent logs for them to hand off to their partners for further investigation. It’s going to take a second for the audit to complete.”

WCIA has reached out to STIC and the State Board of Elections as well.

On Wednesday, April 7, Ammons told WCIA in an interview he was working with his IT specialist, Champaign County IT and the website developer to figure out what went wrong in the first place. He also said at the time he was working with “some other people,” but declined to say whom when asked, prompting WCIA to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

At the time of the interview, Ammons stressed that he didn’t believe anything “nefarious” took place on Election Night.

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