DEF CON Last year, the hackers at DEF CON showed how shockingly easy it was to crack into voting machine software and hardware. Next week, the 2018 conference’s Vote Hacking Village will let kids have a shot at subverting democracy. Beginning on Friday, August 10, teams in three age ranges, 8-11, 12-14 and 15-16, will be let loose on replica American government websites that report election results. In elections in the Ukraine and Ghana, these were hacked to spread confusion about the voting process and its results – and the village’s organizers hope the youngsters can do the same with US-style tech. “It’s just so easy to hack these websites we thought the grown-up hackers in the vote hacking village wouldn’t find it interesting,” Jake Braun, cofounder of the Vote Hacking Village and executive director of the University of Chicago Cyber Policy Initiative, told The Register. “When I was discussing it with a colleague, they noted ‘it would be child’s play’ and I said ‘good f**king point!’ and started planning the event with the Capture the Packet crew and the r00tz Asylum group, which trains young hackers.”
Russian efforts to interfere in upcoming U.S. midterm elections have yet to reach the intensity of the Kremlin’s campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential vote, but they’re only “a keyboard click away” from a more serious attack, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said. “We have not seen that kind of robust campaign from them so far,” Coats said in a briefing at the White House on Thursday. Coats was among five top national security leaders — including National Security Adviser John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency — who blasted Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. The White House is looking to tamp down criticism that President Donald Trump has appeared reluctant to hold Russia accountable for election tampering. He provoked an uproar at the July summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Senior Trump administration officials warned on Thursday that Russia is trying to interfere in November’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election and vowed to combat Moscow’s aggression. The high-profile alarm sounded at the daily White House briefing was striking for the officials’ unequivocal warnings, a departure from President Trump’s fumbling acknowledgments that Moscow undertook an influence campaign in 2016 to exploit partisan divisions in the American electorate and sow discord. “This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus,” said the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray.
They covered their tracks, using software to camouflage their internet traffic. They created Facebook pages for anti-Trump culture warriors, Hispanic activists and fans of alternative medicine. And they organized protests in coordination with real-world political groups. The people behind an influence campaign ahead of this year’s elections, which Facebook disclosed on Tuesday, copied enough of the tactics used by Russians in the 2016 races to raise suspicion that Russia was at it again. But the new efforts also revealed signs of a maturing adversary, adapting and evolving to better disguise itself, while also better imitating real activists. The coordinated activity — a collection of memes, photos and posts on issues like feminist empowerment, indigenous rights and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — show the enormity of the challenge ahead of Facebook, as it tries to weed out impersonators. As the forces behind the accounts become harder to detect, the company is left to separate the ordinary rants and raves of legitimate users from coordinated, possibly state-backed attempts to sway public opinion.
As alarms blare about Russian interference in U.S. elections, the Trump administration is facing criticism that it has no clear national strategy to protect the country during the upcoming midterms and beyond. Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as fragmented, without enough coordination across federal agencies. And with the midterms just three months away, critics are calling on President Donald Trump to take a stronger stand on an issue critical to American democracy. “There’s clearly not enough leadership from the top. This is a moment to move,” said Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “I don’t think they are doing nearly enough.”
Voting systems in the United States are so woefully hackable, even an 8-year-old could do it. At least, that’s the conceit of a competition cosponsored by the Democratic National Committee at next week’s Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas. The contest will include children, ages 8 to 16, who will be tasked with penetrating replicas of the websites that secretaries of state across the country use to publish election results. They’ll vie for $2,500 in prize money, $500 of which will come from the DNC and be awarded to the child who comes up with the best defensive strategy for states around the country. The DNC’s chief technology officer, Raffi Krikorian, says he was inspired to team up with Def Con after scoping out an event at last year’s conference called Voting Village, where attendees—grown-ups this time—got to hack into various models of voting machines and find flaws. “We wanted to figure out how we could use this to our advantage,” Krikorian tells WIRED. “Let’s get those lessons back to secretaries of state.”
A potential new voting system may not guarantee San Franciscans night-of election results, but agonizing, eight-day waits for a new mayor are likely behind us. That scenario unfolded in June, mostly thanks to the sheer amount of mail-in ballots that streamed in days after the polls had closed. But this past week, voters and the San Francisco Department of Elections had the chance to engineer a smoother, less tedious process on several fronts. For future elections, Dominion Voting Systems has an alternative that will allow voters to select their choices on a huge Android tablet complete with ADA-friendly accessibility options, a language bar, a review page, and companion printer to track their choices on paper. To extend the ranked-choice voting confusion, voters can rank up to 10 candidates on the screen. “This system is much more versatile than the existing system,” says Larry Korb, a sales engineer for Dominion.
Montrose County will not be paying more than $23,000 in costs to the print vendor whose errors triggered a hand-count and delayed by a week primary election results, including those in a tight sheriff’s race. Print vendor Integrated Voting Systems, also known as Integrated Voting Solutions, made “numerous mistakes” in printing the ballots, as well as in stuffing envelopes and mailing them, which caused “significant and irreparable damage” to the primary election here, according to a settlement agreement the Montrose County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and IVS representatives inked on Tuesday. Under the agreement, the county is only paying about $3,400 in postage costs, which settles an entire bill that would have exceeded $26,000.
Illinois: Elections officials hear cybersecurity plan that doesn’t address aging election machines | MDJ Online
While the state elections board unveils details about its Cyber Navigator Program to help local election officials secure cyberspace, some county clerks are worried about the security of aging voting machines. The Illinois State Board of Elections held a public hearing Wednesday outlining its plan to offer up a central network for local elections officials for improved cybersecurity. The plan includes hiring 9 cyber navigators that will go around the state assessing vulnerabilities in the 108 different local election jurisdictions. While acknowledging some smaller jurisdictions can definitely use the help, Logan County Clerk Sally Turner said one of her chief concerns is voting machines. “It’s really getting old and if your county doesn’t have a lot of money, that makes it difficult to be able to go out and purchase election equipment and that’s something we’re all needing very quickly,” Turner said.
When you go to the polls to vote for governor between now and Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you don’t see every candidate that you’re expecting to see on your ballot. They’re all there, but you may have to look a little deeper than usual to find the candidate you want to vote for. Because of an unforeseen software glitch in Sedgwick County’s new voting machines, not all the candidates’ names appear on the first screen when the voting machine gets to the gubernatorial election. To see all the names, you have to touch “more” at the bottom of the screen, which opens another page with the rest of the candidates. So on the first screen page that comes up when you’re voting in the governor race, you might see, for example, Gov. Jeff Colyer’s name, but not his chief rival, Kris Kobach. Or you might see Kobach’s name but not Colyer’s. Or you might see both, or neither.
Michigan: Judge says GOP’s straight ticket voting ban discriminated against African Americans | The Detroit Free Press
A federal judge approved a permanent injunction Wednesday against the state eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan even though the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill in 2015 that would do exactly that.
When Michigan Republicans passed the bill eliminating straight ticket voting, they “intentionally discriminated against African-Americans in violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain wrote in his decision. “The Court finds that eliminating the Democratic Party’s success with straight-ticket voters — success especially driven by African-Americans residing in communities with high voting-age African-American populations — was a motivating consideration in the Michigan Legislature’s enactment of PA 268. The goal of ending the Democratic Party’s success with straight-ticket voters, therefore, was achieved at the expense of African-Americans’ access to the ballot.”
North Carolina: Worried about the security of your vote? New technology may help ease your mind | News & Observer
You’ve researched the candidates and made your decisions. You head to your polling place, fill out your ballot, and put it in the scanner. But as it gets sucked into the machine, what’s happening to it? If you use a touch-screen voting machine, or assistive technology, what happens when you submit your vote and it flies off into the ether? The latest generation of machines offer more assurance that your vote counts. In what is likely to be the largest overhaul of North Carolina’s voting technology in a decade, counties across the state are preparing to comply with a statewide requirement to phase out voting machines that don’t mark a physical paper ballot by Sept. 1, 2019. Lawmakers and activists say those devices, known as direct-recording electronic voting machines, do not produce a sufficient record. The requirement is one of the surviving provisions of North Carolina’s controversial 2013 voter ID law.
Ohioans who have been purged from state voting rolls since 2011 will be allowed to cast provisional ballots in Tuesday’s special U.S. House election between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor. Secretary of State Jon Husted instructed county boards of elections on Tuesday to accept the ballots of those purged for failing to vote during a six-year span and failing to respond to notices asking them to verify their status. Their votes will be counted after the election once their purging from voting rolls and other information is confirmed. Husted’s office could not estimate how many purged voters could cast ballots on Tuesday. The directive was the result of a federal court order following mediation with plaintiffs and after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in their suit, according to Husted’s memo to county election officials. The plaintiffs reversed course after an earlier agreement and asked that those purged be allowed to vote on Aug. 7. The court agreed.
The technology company, Miru Systems Co., have growing concerns about the South Korean manufactured electronic voting machines in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s upcoming 2018 general elections. Apart from their vulnerability to hacking, there is a possibility that the QR codes used by the electronic voting machines could compromise voter and ballot secrecy. Since the first time that the DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) proposed the use of electronic voting machines for the 2018 general elections, civil society organizations, and pro-democracy movements based in the DRC and around the world have been crying foul. Technical experts and security researchers identified significant similarities between the electronic voting technology currently proposed for implementation in Congo and models previously planned – and ultimately declined – for use in Argentina’s 2017 national elections.
India: After US, Indian elections may be the next target of Russia: Oxford Professor | Economic Times
After allegedly ‘meddling’ with the 2016 US Presidential Election, Russian hackers may soon make their way to the upcoming general elections in India, an Oxford University internet studies professor says. Philip N. Howard, a professor of Internet studies at the Oxford Internet institute, made the statement during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on foreign Influence on Social media platforms. Howard believes that media in countries like India and Brazil will be targeted to interfere in the election process. “I would say that the greater concern would be amongst the media institutions in our democratic allies. I believe that the Russians have moved from targeting us, in particular, to Brazil and India; other enormous democracies that will be running elections in the next few years,” Howard said. “The United States actually has the most professionalised media in the world. It’s learned certainly to evaluate their sources and no longer report tweets as is given,” Howard said.
Mali’s presidential election will go to a run-off poll after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get enough votes to win a second term in office outright, according to preliminary figures provided by the government. Keita won 41.4 percent of the vote in the mostly desert West African country, while rival Soumaila Cisse won 17.8 percent, the Ministry of Territorial Administration said on Thursday, four days after an election marred by accusations of fraud and attacks by suspected militants that prevented thousands from voting. With neither candidate obtaining the 50 percent required to win outright, the two will meet in a runoff vote later this month. Turnout was just over 43 percent, in line with a historical average that is the lowest in West Africa.
Cybercriminals have hacked into the website of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in the latest crisis to batter elections held in the country earlier this week. A day after soldiers killed at least three people in post-election violence in the capital Harare, ZEC confirmed it had to take its website (https://www.zec.org.zw) down after it was hacked into. “Our website was hacked and we had to take it down minutes after discovering it was compromised,” said Qhubani Moyo, the ZEC spokesperson. He announced the hacking to media in Harare on Thursday.