Society

Cybersecurity Experts: Voting Machines Could Be Hacked

| by Robert Fowler
A ballot counting machineA ballot counting machine

One cyber security firm says hackers could have easy avenues to tampering with the November election results. The issue highlights how many of the electronic systems that the majority of U.S. voting precincts use have become outdated.

Following the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, U.S. officials have expressed concerns that the November election process could be vulnerable to tampering.

On Aug. 8, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, penned a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting that voting machines be scrutinized before the election, ABC News reports.

“Election security is critical, and a cyber attack by foreign actors on our election system could compromise the integrity of our voting process,” Carper wrote.

In July, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff voiced similar concerns during the Aspen Security Forum.

“[The DNC hack] points out a number of imperatives for the Congress, and chief among them are ensuring the integrity of the election itself,” Schiff said.

While Democratic lawmakers are concerned that voting booths could be hacked by foreign actors, such as Russia, GOP nominee Donald Trump has suggested the November election could be rigged by the Democratic party itself.

“I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful because the election is going to be rigged,” Trump told Fox News on Aug. 1. “And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”

While Trump’s warning has not been substantiated, security experts warn that hackers could easily tamper with the voting booths. The Brennan Center for Justice has found that 43 states in the U.S. will be using voting machines that are dangerously outdated and susceptible to hacking.

Symantec Security Response, a cyber security firm, has warned that hackers interested in manipulating electronic voting machines could use an inexpensive card that can easily be purchased online.

Principal researcher Brian Varner of Symantec demonstrated to CBS News how hackers could insert the card into a voting machine to reset their vote, allowing them to vote numerous times.

“For $15 and in-depth knowledge of the card, you could hack the vote,” Varner explained.

Kevin Haley, the director of Symantec, warned that data from a voting machine is sent to a central counting area, but is not encrypted, making it “vulnerable for manipulation.”

Haley added, “There are so many places in the voting process once it goes electronic that’s vulnerable.”

None of the vote counting systems are connected to the internet and all are systems are certified by the Election Assistance Commission, notes CBS News.

Denise Merrill, the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, dismissed concerns that the national vote could be manipulated by foreign actors, noting that there are more than 9,000 different voting districts in the U.S., which all use different methods of tallying votes.

“The idea of a national hack of some sort is almost ridiculous because there is no national system,” Merrill said.

Around 80 percent of voting precincts create a paper trail of each vote, whether they are submitted on paper ballot or digitally. Only 60 percent of states routinely conduct audits of their voting paper trails.

Sources: ABC NewsCBS News, Fox News / Photo credit: Flickr

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