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INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders across the region are talking about election security. More specifically, how you can play a role in keeping democracy safe.

The USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative is a nonpartisan, independent project designed to inform and educate people in campaigns and elections on the importance of election cybersecurity.

On Thursday, the program hosted a virtual conference for the following states, IN, IL, MI, MN, OH, and WI.

One of the featured speakers, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said election cybersecurity is a race without a finish line.

“You’ve gotta stay one step ahead of the bad guys all the time,” explained Simon.

Targets are always changing and as of late, it’s been less about hacking machines and more about manipulating minds of voters.

“it’s important that we not let our guard down,” said Simon.

That’s why experts suggest we all check our sources when it comes to election information. Is the site legitimate? Is the same information confirmed by multiple credible outlets? Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he worked with the local media to educate the public.

“Because the vast majority of journalists I know care deeply about getting the story right but they’re not elections experts, they’ve never been behind the counter at the Board of Elections,” said La Rose.

Hackers can also try to manipulate voters by accessing their computers directly. USC Center for Computer Systems Security Director Clifford Neuman emphasizes treating technology like it’s a castle and building multiple barriers to get in. He said the first is a strong password.

“A better thing to do is think of a phrase,” said Neuman. “Come up with a phrase like, for example ‘Keepth3m0utofRsystems’.”

Many say COVID-19 made the latest election the most challenging yet. More people were online than ever due to staying at home and creating safe in-person voting precautions was difficult.

“That really took the oxygen out of the room in most rooms when it came to election administration,” said Simon.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he’s proud of the way the state conducted its 2020 elections but said more safeguards are always needed in the future.

“Ensuring the integrity of our elections is a topic that transcends political parties and it’s more critical now than ever before as technology continues to advance at seemingly the speed of light,” said Holcomb.

For more resources on election cybersecurity, click here.