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Hack the vote: Experts say the risk is real

Taylor Armerding | Sept. 9, 2016
Security experts say there is no evidence that hackers have tampered with votes in US elections. But they say the risk is very real, in large part because it is so easy

Among the recommendations from experts:

  • Voting machine should not be connected to any network, including local area networks (LANs), Wi-Fi, the Internet and virtual private networks (VPNs).
  • Require all voting machine to create a paper copy of each vote and keep them filed and secure for at least a year. At present, only about 80 percent of voting machines are backed up by paper copies.

Appel, in a blog post, wrote that the results reported through DRE voting, “are completely under the control of the computer program in there. If the computer is hacked, then the hacker gets to decide what numbers are reported.”

  • Conduct a sampling verification audit within 90 days on a statistically significant level by professional auditors to compare the paper ballots with the electronic results recorded.
  • Eliminate internet voting. According to Schneier, “this is the worst – the biggest disaster.” Hall agreed. Until the Internet is more secure by design, “Internet voting should be entirely banned for government elections,” he said.

Of course, nothing is entirely bulletproof. Kevin McAleavey, cofounder and chief architect of the KNOS Project and a malware analyst, noted that social engineering attacks can easily overcome the barrier of an air-gapped system.

“The risk is more with insiders happily clicking on an email attachment and installing something malicious,” he said. “That's pretty much how it's done everywhere these days.”

McAleavey said most of the recent breaches of campaigns, voter roll lists and other confidential information were, “done with malware planted by an unsuspecting, authorized user of the systems who got phished and clicked on the bait.”

Clarke, in his recent post, emphasized that there is “no evidence that such hacking has ever taken place in the US or that it is about to occur.

“What we do know is that it could happen,” he said. “There is nothing to stop it from happening in many parts of the country, and there is not even an effort to see if it is happening.”


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