With the 2018 midterm elections fast approaching, security experts are warning that the nation’s election infrastructure will once again come under assault by hackers seeking to undermine American democracy. But here’s an underappreciated fact: We’re already under attack. “We average 100,000 scans on our [computer] systems a day,” Missouri’s secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, told a recent Senate panel examining election security. He was referring to unauthorized probing of the networks. Mr. Ashcroft and other state election officials were asked how often they detect attempts specifically to break into voter-registration and other election-related systems. “Every day,” responded Vermont’s secretary of state, Jim Condos. “We probably receive several thousand scans per day.”
A Republican-controlled Senate panel has said that further evidence has been found to support a US intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help elect Donald Trump. The Senate intelligence committee said “information obtained subsequent to publication” of a January 2017 report by US intelligence agencies “provides further support” to the conclusion that Vladimir Putin and his government aimed to discredit Hillary Clinton and boost Trump. No further detail was given. The discovery was noted on Tuesday in a summary of initial findings from the committee’s review of the January 2017 intelligence community assessment (ICA), which it said was a “sound intelligence product” backed up by evidence.
The Department of Justice’s internal “Cyber-Digital Task Force,” created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February, will release its first-ever public report later this month at the Aspen Institute’s annual Security Forum, a department spokesperson told CyberScoop. The report is expected to detail a series of security recommendations that the government should consider to protect future U.S. elections from a myriad of different threats, including foreign hacking attempts. A statement by the DOJ previously explained that the Task Force will “prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.”
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a legal challenge to the 2020 census can go forward, saying there was an appearance of “bad faith” behind the Trump Administration’s disputed decision to add a question about citizenship. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman made the ruling at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan after citing contradictory statements by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about the rationale for a plan to send a census form to every household that asks people to specify whether they are U.S. citizens. The move has fueled worries among Democrats that it will discourage immigrants from participating in the survey, thereby diluting representation for states that tend to vote Democratic and robbing many communities of federal dollars. A coalition of about two dozen states and cities have sued the U.S. government in New York to block the plan, calling it unconstitutional.
Editorials: This Independence Day, celebrate America by defending voting rights | Alex Padilla/Orange County Register
Flags are mounted, grills are fired up and friends, family and neighbors are gathering to celebrate Independence Day across the country. We celebrate our history, our veterans and our most fundamental values of American democracy, including the right to vote. But this year, recent decisions by an ideologically split U.S. Supreme Court are putting Americans’ right to vote at risk by enabling racial and partisan gerrymandering and upholding voter suppression tactics. We are reminded that we cannot celebrate America without also defending the right to vote. Make no mistake — the Supreme Court’s assault on voting rights impacts everyone — red states, blue states, the elderly and young of any race. But the brunt of such attacks will be felt most profoundly by communities that have been historically disenfranchised — people of color and low income communities.
A new lawsuit seeks to block Arizona from enforcing its ban on “ballot harvesting” for the upcoming election, claiming the state has no legal authority to regulate who can and cannot deliver someone else’s mail. In legal papers filed in federal court here Tuesday, attorney Spencer Scharff is arguing that only Congress has the right to regulate the U.S. mail. And he said that once someone puts a ballot into an envelope which has prepaid postage on it, it becomes “mail.” What all that means, said Scharff, is a 2016 statutes that makes it a felony to collect early ballots and deliver them to polling places is preempted by federal law. And he is asking U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes to put the law on “hold” until there can be a full hearing on the issue.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is no longer representing himself in a federal lawsuit over the state’s voter registration law that he lost after being found in contempt of court. Court documents show Kansas Solicitor General Toby Crouse will argue the case at the appeal stage. Crouse filed a notice this week on Kobach’s behalf saying he intends to appeal after Judge Julie Robinson ruled unconstitutional a state law requiring people to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the head of IT for the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration is no longer at the agency following a technical error affecting voter registration records ahead of the June 26 primary. At one point last week, officials said the error — which came to light just days before the primary — may have affected some 80,000 voters who tried to change their addresses or party affiliations online or through an MVA kiosk. Affected voters were informed they would have to cast provisional ballots. When asked during a WTOP interview Tuesday whether anyone should lose his or her job over the error, Hogan replied: “Somebody already has lost their job over it. The person in charge of all IT for the MVA is no longer working there.”
The Libertarian candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are willing to pay $8,500 to cover the cost of a recount aimed at ensuring their names appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The two candidates ran a write-in campaign to win the Libertarian nomination. Under state law, they had to receive at least 230 votes in the primary election to advance to the general election, but they fell about 50 votes short. Now, the Libertarians are asking the State Canvassing Board to authorize a hand tally in at least eight counties and they’ve provided an $8,500 check to cover the cost. They will get the money back if the recount shows that they had enough votes to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.
Cybersecurity specialists at the University of Pittsburgh have formed an independent panel to study ways to protect Pennsylvania’s voting system from hackers. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security includes experts, reform advocates, and present and former government officials. It met for the first time June 26. David Hickton, a former U.S. attorney and founding director of the Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, co-chairs the panel. In an interview, he said the commission plans to examine the state’s election machinery, its voter rolls, and the system’s resiliency in the event of an attack. Hickton said the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed the state’s voter rolls were compromised by hackers in 2016.
On Friday, a 30-year-old culinary student and Nigerian immigrant in Nashville, Tennessee, attempted to update her voter registration information so that she could vote in the state’s upcoming primaries. The woman, Funmilayo Ekundayo, had voted in two previous elections, so updating her registration should have been routine. But after getting through the second step of Tennessee’s multistep online voter registration system, which rolled out in 2017, Ekundayo was told by the website that records showed she was “not a citizen of the United States.” It was just days before Tennessee’s July 3 deadline to vote in the August primaries.
Chief Judge Gustavo Gelpí of the District Court of Puerto Rico spoke with Guam attorneys and law students at the Guam Museum on Monday morning, discussing the nebulous relationship between United States territories and the Constitution, just days before the nation celebrates its 242nd birthday. While Gelpí covered a number of constitutional questions, he repeated several times that territories remain in a “constitutionally scary” situation, in which the territories remain at the mercy of Congress. “What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away,” he said.
Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday backed changes to the rules governing European elections — but the reforms were a long way from the ambitious plans that many lawmakers had hoped for. At the end of more than two years of tricky negotiations with EU member countries, MEPs voted by 397 votes to 207 in favor of the changes, with 62 abstentions. Some of the proposals will be in place in time for next year’s election. They agreed to allow internet voting, allow EU citizens to vote from non-EU countries, and put in place tough penalties for those who vote in more than one country. They also agreed to put names and logos of EU political parties next to national ones on the ballot paper, but only on a voluntary basis. There was also success for Germany and Spain which, unlike most other EU countries, don’t have mandatory thresholds of votes in EU elections but will now be able to introduce a limit of between 2 and 2.5 percent. Berlin had lobbied hard for electoral thresholds despite a 2014 German court ruling which declared them unconstitutional.
The Typeform data breach that shook the internet world last week now appears much more shocking and far-reaching then initially speculated. At that time, Typeform did not clearly mention the affected customers. Rather it summed up by saying that it is notifying the affected customers directly. However, the recent reports and repeated confessions about data breach from a number of organizations give us a hint of the Typeform’s victimized clientele. In this Typeform breach update, we report the data breaches faced by various political parties. One of the initial entities that confirmed data breach right after the news about Typeform breach surfaced online, is the Tasmanian Electoral Commission (TEC). After receiving the notification from Typeform, they quickly published a media release about the incident.
Iraqi authorities began recounting votes on Tuesday from May’s disputed parliamentary election, officials said, a step toward forming a new government after weeks of delays. Counting started in the ethnically mixed northern oil-producing province of Kirkuk, the election commission said, and at least six other provinces were expected to follow suit in coming days. Parliament ordered a full recount last month after a government report concluded there were widespread violations. As a result, political blocs began heated talks about the formation of the next government.
Election organizers in Mali have ended a two-week strike over working conditions, a union said on Wednesday, lifting a threat to a looming vote. Malians are due to vote on July 29 in a presidential election that many hope will chart a way out of six years of political unrest and jihadist violence. But attacks by militants had cast doubt on the government’s ability to hold the poll on time even before the strike, which disrupted the distribution of voting cards. Last week, militants raided the headquarters of a regional military base in central Mali, leaving at least six people dead. Four civilians were also killed on Sunday by a car bomb that targeted French troops in the north.
Only hours before the polls closed in Mexico’s highly contentious general elections, the city of Puebla suffered a rash of ballot robberies at polling stations, leaving one person killed and voters unable to make their selection for president, the state governor, and congressional representatives. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) confirmed that one of their local chairpeople in the state of Puebla, Fernando Herrera Silva, was also assassinated on Sunday. In a statement, the PRI said, “We demand the state and judicial authorities to clarify this attack, which also recorded three other people injured. This process is marred again by acts of violence and it is the duty of the state government to guarantee the safety of citizens, in the free exercise of their rights.”
The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) official website was attacked by Chinese hackers early Tuesday morning, and the website was replaced with pictures and words reading “Chinese netizens are supporting Tsai Ing-wen to run for re-election” in simplified Chinese characters. DPP spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said on Tuesday noon that the cyber attack took place between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. July 3, and the party will heighten its cybersecurity after the hack. A screenshot image showed that the title of the website was changed into a long sentence, which read “We don’t touch your confidential information, it’s not worth it; our next target will be the Kuomintang.”
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa made a veiled threat on Wednesday to boycott elections on July 30 if there is no agreement between the independent election agency and political parties on ballot papers. Chamisa and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are the main rivals to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the first presidential and parliamentary vote since Robert Mugabe resigned last November following an army coup. The MDC is wary of any attempt to put it at a disadvantage to Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party, insisting there be a deal on how to design, print and store ballot papers.