Lawmakers are concerned about a major blind spot in the government’s ongoing effort to protect U.S. elections from hackers. Agencies like the Homeland Security Department have little insight into the cybersecurity practices of election technology vendors. This lack of visibility opens the door to supply chain attacks, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which could be otherwise potentially detected or stopped by government cybersecurity experts. The Senate committee’s first installment of a larger report on Russian targeting of the 2016 presidential election was released late Tuesday night. It focuses on assessing the federal government’s response to security threats and provides recommendations for future elections.
As America heads toward the 2018 midterms, there is an 800-pound gorilla in the voting booth. Despite improvements since Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential race, the U.S. elections infrastructure is vulnerable — and will remain so in November. Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier laid out the problem to an overflowing room full of election directors and secretaries of state — people charged with running and securing elections — at a conference at Harvard University this spring. “Computers are basically insecure,” said Schneier. “Voting systems are not magical in any way. They are computers.” Even though most states have moved away from voting equipment that does not produce a paper trail, when experts talk about “voting systems,” that phrase encompasses the entire process of voting: how citizens register, how they find their polling places, how they check in, how they cast their ballots and, ultimately, how they find out who won. Much of that process is digital.
With the midterm congressional primaries about to go into full swing, the Department of Homeland Security has completed security reviews of election systems in only about half the states that have requested them so far. The government’s slow pace in conducting the reviews has raised concerns that the nation’s voting systems could be vulnerable to hacking, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia plans to continue meddling in the country’s elections. Among those still waiting for Homeland Security to conduct a risk assessment is Indiana, one of four states with primaries on Tuesday. Its ballot includes several hotly contested races, including a Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she is confident state officials have done what they can to safeguard Tuesday’s voting, but acknowledged: “I’ll probably be chewing my fingernails during the entire day on Election Day.”
Amid suspicions of interference in the 2016 elections, states must be more careful than ever to provide heightened security in this year’s primaries. Yet, West Virginia has just introduced a more vulnerable form of voting for deployed military personnel. West Virginia is now the first state to pilot blockchain technology, to allow some deployed soldiers to vote through mobile phones. Yet cyber security experts warn that this technology, also used for cryptocurrencies, poses dangers for voting. Instead of pioneering voting’s future, West Virginia is paving the way for future election hacking. Blockchain technology addresses only part of the security process currently used by those administering U.S. elections. It’s like installing a high-tech lock and alarm system in your home, and then leaving a front door key and the alarm pass code under the doormat. The alarm system may work perfectly, but until the keys and pass codes are also secure, your home won’t be secure, either.
As the Alaska Legislature held a Thursday hearing examining the security state’s election system, the Alaska Division of Elections responded to claims that a hacker penetrated its systems on Election Day 2016. Earlier this week, the Anchorage Daily News published details of a previously undisclosed penetration of the division’s computer systems. The division has previously said Alaska was among the 21 states identified by the Department of Homeland Security as targets of Russian vulnerability scans, but it had not discussed an event on the morning of Election Day itself. In that event, exposed by emails first obtained by the ADN (and subsequently obtained by the Associated Press and the Empire), a hacker identified on Twitter as @cyberzeist published pictures of the administrative tools the division uses to share election results with the public.
As local officials across the country scramble to hack-proof their voting systems ahead of the midterm elections, there’s one state that is paving the way as a leader in election security. Colorado has done virtually everything election experts recommend states do to stave off a repeat of 2016, when Russian hackers targeted 21 states as part of the Russian government’s massive election interference campaign. The state records every vote on a paper ballot. It conducts rigorous post-election audits favored by voting researchers. Nearly every county is equipped with up-to-date voting machines. Election officials take part in security trainings and IT workers test computer networks for weaknesses. Secretary of State Wayne Williams told me the state benefited from having some of those measures in place before 2016. Once the extent of Russia’s digital campaign in the presidential election became clear, he made it a priority to invest more in them, he said. “If people perceive a risk, they’re less likely to participate in voting,” Williams said. “We want to protect people from that threat, and we want to people to perceive that they are protected from that threat.”
Electronic voting hasn’t guaranteed fairness in elections so far. But digital-scanning technology has the potential to increase transparency in elections — if election officials flip the right switches. Digital scanners capture images of each paper ballot cast and use the images to count results. The machines can preserve the images, providing a quick and easy way to verify election results. But the settings can be adjusted to discard the images after the results are tabulated. Some election officials are quick to defend their right to trash the ballot images, despite the fact that the machines count the images, not the paper ballots. The latest contest over ballot image preservation is currently underway in Ohio, where the Green Party candidate for governor, Constance Gadell-Newton, filed an expedited lawsuit against Cuyahoga County, Franklin County, and Secretary of State Jon Husted (R).
Investigators found evidence of a “malicious intrusion” into a Tennessee county’s elections website from a computer in Ukraine during a concerted cyberattack, which likely caused the site to crash just as it was reporting vote totals in this month’s primary. Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County to analyze the so-called “denial of service” cyberattack, said Friday that “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the site as votes were being reported on May 1. That intense activity was among the likely causes of the crash, according to the report by Sword & Shield Enterprise Security. “Given the circumstantial evidence_especially the simultaneous proven malicious intrusion from a Ukraine IP address_I think it is reasonable to at least hypothesize that it was an intended event,” David Ball, the county’s deputy director of information technology, added in an email to The Associated Press.
Voting turned out to be agonising and frustrating for many across the city during Saturday’s polling as the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioned in several booths. While voting was disrupted in some places, the process was deferred to Monday in Lottegollahalli under Hebbal constituency. This means voters have to revisit the booth on a working day. In fact, not a single vote was cast in Lottegollahalli till 4 pm on Saturday. Voters had to wait in the hot sun until the fault was rectified. But voters in ward 2 complained that the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine –which prints the voter’s choice for confirmation— reflected names other than the ones they chose. Following complaints from the voters, election officials in the booth suspended polling as they could not resolve the issue.
Google has banned all adverts relating to the Irish abortion referendum from its platform, amid fears of overseas organisations taking advantage of loopholes in campaign funding laws to target voters before polling day. The decision will mean an end to advertisements relating to the referendum appearing alongside Google results and on YouTube during the final fortnight of the campaign. “Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the eighth amendment,” a spokesperson said.
Pakistan: Impossible to incorporate electronic voting in 2018 elections, observes Supreme Court | The Express Tribune
The Supreme Court observed on Thursday that it is impossible to incorporate an electronic voting system for the upcoming general elections in the country. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, resumed hearing of a petition filed in 2012 by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan which sought removal of alleged bogus votes from the voter lists issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Two years after Russia’s wave of cyberattacks against American democracy, a Senate committee investigating election interference says those hackers hit more states harder than previously thought. The committee also added that it still doesn’t know with complete certainty exactly how much of U.S. voting infrastructure was compromised. The report summary released this week by the Senate intelligence committee gives an overview of initial findings focused specifically on how Russian government operatives affected U.S. elections systems. The full report is undergoing a review to check for classified information.
President Donald Trump’s national security team is weighing the elimination of the top White House cybersecurity job, multiple sources told POLITICO — a move that would come as the nation faces growing digital threats from adversaries such as Russia and Iran. John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish new national security adviser, is leading the push to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator, currently held by the departing Rob Joyce, according to one current and two former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the discussions. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of deliberations about internal White House operations.
Kremlin-linked Russian politician Alexander Torshin traveled frequently between Moscow and various destinations in the United States to build relationships with figures on the American right starting as early as 2009, beyond his previously known contacts with the National Rifle Association. Documents newly obtained by NPR show how he traveled throughout the United States to cultivate ties in ways well beyond his formal role as a member of the Russian legislature and later as a top official at the Russian central bank. These are steps a former top CIA official believes Torshin took in order to advance Moscow’s long-term objectives in the United States, in part by establishing common political interests with American conservatives. “Putin and probably the Russian intelligence services saw [Torshin’s connections] as something that they could leverage in the United States,” said Steve Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russian operations. “They reach to reach out to guy like Torshin and say, ‘Hey, can you make contact with the NRA and some other conservatives… so that we can have connectivity from Moscow into those conservative parts of American politics should we need them?’ And that’s basically just wiring the United States for sound, if you will, in preparation for whatever they might need down the road.”
National: What data on more than 3,500 Russian Facebook ads reveals about the interference effort | The Washington Post
On Thursday morning, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee released 8 gigabytes of archives containing more than 3,500 documents detailing advertisements run on Facebook from 2015 to 2017 and paid for by Russians attempting to interfere in American politics. We analyzed those files to get a better sense of how the Russian interference effort operated — and how well it worked. Overall, the files provide information on thousands of ads, including data on when ad campaigns began, when they ended, how effective they were and how much they cost. The two months in which the most campaigns began were May 2016 and April 2017 — shortly before the Russian effort was curtailed. (No data for June 2017 were released.)
As the midterm elections draw closer, Dameon Stackhouse is eager to cast a ballot, but he can’t under New Jersey law because he remains on parole after more than a decade behind bars for second-degree robbery. “We have no say,” said Mr. Stackhouse, a 41-year-old construction worker and student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “This is one of the worst things you can do to a citizen.” New Jersey is weighing a measure that would immediately restore voting rights to Mr. Stackhouse and more than 94,000 other state residents with convictions. If passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled Senate and General Assembly, it would be the third U.S. state, along with Maine and Vermont, to allow people to vote even while incarcerated.
The congressional maps are all but set for the 2018 elections. But for those on the front lines of a simmering battle over the next decade of elections, the results are about more than who will control the next Congress. This year’s election season could reveal just how much the current districts have entrenched an advantage for one political party over the other, whether courts will step in to stop state lawmakers from creating such partisan districts, and which party will control crucial local offices ahead of a nationwide redistricting based on the 2020 census. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee — a new group led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that aims to spend $30 million this cycle — has targeted 20 legislative chambers, nine gubernatorial races and other races it considers the “most important for shifting the balance of power in the redistricting process.”
Editorials: It’s up to Trump to prepare for Kremlin cyberattacks. He’s falling short. | The Washington Post
The Obama administration was slow and ineffective in its response to Russian election interference in 2016. But it is now on President Trump and his team to prepare for a new round of Kremlin cyberattacks — and this White House, too, is falling short. That was the upshot of a bipartisan report on Russian election interference that the Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday, the first in a series that promises to provide a fairer picture of the Russian threat than what the highly partisan House Intelligence Committee offered following its brief and slanted investigation.
California: Non-citizens voting in San Francisoc school board elections to get immigration warning | The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco’s implementation of non-citizen voting in school board elections this November will come with a warning — federal immigration enforcement officials could obtain the voter registration information. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 to allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections beginning in November, but there are concerns over how the federal government could use the information as President Donald Trump has targeted California and San Francisco over sanctuary policies. San Francisco plans to issue a warning in 51 languages to non-citizens before they register, including on a Department of Elections affidavit they would need to sign to register and on the Department of Elections website.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday asked Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to correct voting information on state and county websites or risk further legal action. Kobach fought ACLU in a trial in March over the state’s proof of citizenship requirement in voter registrations. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson blocked enforcement of the law pending outcome of the case, then found Kobach to be in contempt for failing to comply with her orders. In a letter emailed to Kobach, ACLU points out multiple online references that erroneously say voters must prove their citizenship before voting. ACLU asks for changes to four sections of the secretary of state’s website, as well as information found on Douglas, Riley and Crawford county websites. ACLU attorney Dale Ho said Kobach “should have taken care of all of this long ago.”
New Hampshire: Voter residency bill clears House; Sununu calls for constitutional review | Concord Monitor
A bill merging the definitions of “resident” and “domiciled” person for voting purposes is heading to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk after a House vote Thursday, but the governor wants to send it to the courts to review its legality. In a 182-156 vote, the House voted to concur with the final version of House Bill 1264, sending the bill into the enrollment process and setting up a tough political ultimatum for Sununu. The bill, which would effectively make voting in New Hampshire a declaration of residency, has been praised by supporters as a means to clarify New Hampshire’s law and bring it into line with other states. But critics have said that incorporating residency into the voting process could impose eventual car registration costs that could act as a “poll tax” and deter some from the polls. In a secretly recorded video released in December, Sununu appeared to share those concerns, telling a young activist that he “hated” the bill and raising worries that it could suppress the vote and be found unconstitutional in the courts.
Virginia: Russians targeted some Virginians with ads promoting ‘Southern pride’, others with messages denouncing police brutality | Richmond Times Dispatch
Russians attempting to sow racial and political division targeted some Virginians with Facebook and Instagram ads promoting Southern pride and rebel flags and others with messages highlighting young black men killed by police. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released more than 3,500 of the ads Thursday, offering the fullest picture yet of how a Russian internet agency attempted to influence Americans before and after the 2016 presidential election. Most of the ads are issue-based, pushing arguments for and against immigration, LGBT issues and gun rights, among other issues. A large number of them attempt to stoke racial divisions by mentioning police brutality or disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement. Some promote President Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, who ran against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. Few, if any, support Clinton. Others were more narrowly targeted. About 10 specifically targeted Virginians, and only a few of those were widely distributed.
Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo on Thursday said protests would resume next week over disputed local elections in February as he called off negotiations with the government. Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo on Thursday said protests would resume next week over disputed local elections in February as he called off negotiations with the government. Demonstrations over the results of that vote have claimed at least 15 lives.
Iraq will close its airports and border crossings for 24 hours during its May 12 election, the first held since it defeated Islamic State militants, the electoral security committee said on Wednesday. The shutdown will come into effect at midnight on Friday. Security forces will also suspend travel between provinces and restrict the movement of vehicles on Saturday, before easing the measures “gradually” after polls close, a spokesman for the committee told a news conference.
t there are no “tricks up their sleeves” in the vote counting process. “The rakyat are waiting and we understand, give us some time to give an official result when everything is confirmed,” its chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah (pic) said at a press conference chaired by top EC officials on Thursday. He added that news about unofficial results were from party agents on duty at polling centres and were unverified. “It is the EC’s responsibility to only issue verified results,” he said.
Not long after midnight, the crowd of thousands began to sense that something historic was taking place. They had gathered on a vast lawn to watch the election results roll in through the night, and the mood was cheerful and relaxed. Here, in Petaling Jaya, a heavily residential city that blends into Kuala Lumpur, support for the opposition party, Pakatan Harapan, the Alliance of Hope, runs high, and as P.H.’s tally began to outstrip that of Barisan Nasional, the ruling party, everyone present began to contemplate the unthinkable: the end of the only government Malaysia has ever known. The ramifications of P.H.’s stunning victory in Wednesday’s elections are only just starting to filter through. The person who appears to be our new prime minister is Mahathir Mohamad, who is 92 years old and earlier served as prime minister — with B.N. Even after the election commission confirmed this morning that P.H. had won at least 112 of the 222 seats in Parliament (or the simple majority that entitles it to form the next government) Najib Razak, the outgoing prime minister, was not clearly conceding his loss. Twelve of the country’s 13 states also held assembly elections yesterday, and B.N. won in just three.
Plans by Catalan separatists to re-elect their region’s former president in absentia were blocked Wednesday by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The court agreed to consider the Spanish government’s challenge of a legal change approved by Catalonia’s separatist-dominated parliament that paved the way for Carles Puigdemont’s election while he fights extradition from Germany to Spain. By accepting the case, the court effectively ended Puigdemont’s chances of being re-elected to the post the Spanish government removed him from in October. A ruling will take months, but pro-independence parties in Catalonia need to elect a new chief by May 22 or risk the calling of a new election.