Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen called KGVO News on Friday after cybersecurity threats had surfaced in Montana, in addition to addressing the integrity of local elections.

Jacobsen started with a warning to businesses in the state about possible cyber attacks through email.

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“Basically, it’s what you do with your email, began Secretary Jacobsen. “So, if you have been recognizing that there is a threat; if there are any unfamiliar senders and if you're not familiar with their addresses, be cautious about clicking or accepting any emails. Foe example, if there are any errors and the sender's address, so if there's like spelling mistakes or anything like that, that's a common signal that it could be a cyber attack.”

Jacobsen also detailed an investigation into a deceptive mailing that looks as if it came from the Secretary of State’s office.

“There is a deceptive mailing that has gone out on and off over the last year,” she said. “The mailing is titled ‘2022 Certificate of Existence’ request form. It looks it has the appearance that it's coming from the Secretary of State's office as an official document when in fact it is not at all associated with our office. Basically, the mailing is offering the certificate for a business for an $80 charge, but when in fact, you can actually just go directly to our Secretary of State's website and order the certificate for $5.”

Jacobsen also addressed the current lawsuits attacking new election security legislation just passed in the last session.

“We're currently fighting to keep the laws that Montanans would like to see on the books that they stay,” she said. “So we're busy fighting those lawsuits, and I am also looking at requesting some legislation in the next session to tighten up our post election audit process.”

KGVO asked Jacobsen about the continuing controversy about video that was erased after the 2020 Missoula election.

“The retention of the video is something that is determined at a local level,” she said. “That is something that is the policy at the local level, whether it be in Missoula County or Yellowstone county or Lewis and Clark County to retain those videos. Again, that's something that is determined at the local level, so that needs to be adjusted or changed. I would anticipate that there are efforts are underway to address that.”

Jacobsen said election integrity if paramount at the Secretary of State’s office.

“But I did want to say that one of the election integrity bills that I requested and passed was about tightening up the security, and we're currently just working on implementing the rules around that,” she said. “Hopefully we'll have those finalized and out for everybody to use in the next month or so, so that that will also help with the security around the election.”

Jacobsen said the deadline for businesses to file their annual reports with the Secretary of State’s office is April 15.

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