National: ‘They think they are above the law’: the firms that own America’s voting system | The Guardian

Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin is a newcomer to the cause of reforming America’s vote-counting machines, welcomed through baptism by fire. In 2015, Maryland’s main election system vendor was bought by a parent company with ties to a Russian oligarch. The state’s election officials did not know about the purchase until July 2018, when the FBI notified them of the potential conflict. The FBI investigated and did not find any evidence of tampering or sharing of voter data. But the incident was a giant red flag as to the potential vulnerabilities of American democracy – especially as many states have outsourced vote-counting to the private sector. After all, the purchase happened while Russian agents were mounting multiple disinformation and cybersecurity campaigns to interfere with America’s 2016 general election. “To say that they don’t have any evidence of any wrongdoing is not to say that nothing untoward happened,” Raskin said. “It’s simply to say that we don’t have the evidence of it.” The fact is that democracy in the United States is now largely a secretive and privately-run affair conducted out of the public eye with little oversight. The corporations that run every aspect of American elections, from voter registration to casting and counting votes by machine, are subject to limited state and federal regulation. The companies are privately-owned and closely held, making information about ownership and financial stability difficult to obtain. The software source code and hardware design of their systems are kept as trade secrets and therefore difficult to study or investigate.

National: Election security offers leading edge in CISA’s funding push as budget hearings approach | InsideCyberSecurity

Leaders of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency argue that ensuring the security of the 2020 election will require increased funds for the new agency, and are citing the recent Mueller report as new evidence of CISA’s critical role in countering Russian interference. The Mueller report released last week, and renewed CISA assertions about election security, come as House lawmakers kick off review of the DHS budget for fiscal 2020 next week. CISA Director Christopher Krebs said the redacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference reinforces ongoing concerns about election security, while he emphasized that CISA will continue asking for more funding in this area. “When I look at the Mueller report, I think it’s an extension of prior law enforcement intelligence activity, it was pretty consistent with the intelligence community assessment,” Krebs said to Inside Cybersecurity following his speech at the AFCEA meeting of government and largely defense industry officials today. “It’s just a reinforcement that they were incredibly active in 2016, they were active in 2018, and we’re going to be ready for them in 2020,” Krebs said.

National: Mueller report: Russia hacked state databases and voting machine companies | Roll Call

The Russian military intelligence unit known by its initials GRU targeted U.S. state election offices as well as U.S. makers of voting machines, according to Mueller’s report. Victims of the Russian hacking operation “included U.S. state and local entities, such as state boards of elections (SBOEs), secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities,” the report said. “The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration software and electronic polling stations.” The Russian intelligence officers at GRU exploited known vulnerabilities on websites of state and local election offices by injecting malicious SQL code on such websites that then ran commands on underlying databases to extract information. Using those techniques in June 2016, “the GRU compromised the computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections by exploiting a vulnerability in the SBOE’s website,” the report said. “The GRU then gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters, and extracted data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.”

National: Jared Kushner Dismisses Russian Election Interference as ‘Couple of Facebook Ads’ | The New York Times

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, dismissed Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign on Tuesday as a “couple of Facebook ads” and said the investigation of it was far more damaging to the country than the intrusion itself. “You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing,” Mr. Kushner said during a panel sponsored by Time magazine. “But I think the investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.” “Quite frankly, the whole thing is just a big distraction for the country,” Mr. Kushner said in his first public comments since the release of the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, last week. Facebook estimated that Russia-backed ads and social media posts reached 126 million Americans during the election, only about 10 million fewer than voted in 2016. Moreover, Russians hacked accounts of the Democratic National Committee and leaked damaging information about Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, at critical moments during the campaign. In his report, Mr. Mueller concluded that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

National: Russia’s hack into the US election was surprisingly inexpensive, Mueller report shows | CNBC

Techniques used by state-backed Russian hackers to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections were apparently inexpensive, experts told CNBC, highlighting the ease at which a foreign government was able to meddle in a Western democracy. The report released by special counsel Robert Mueller lays out how Russian trolls used social media to try to influence the outcome of the election in which Donald Trump was made president and outlines the way in which hackers stole documents from the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Beginning in March 2016, units of Russia’s military intelligence unit known as GRU hacked the computers and email accounts of organizations, employees and volunteers supporting the Clinton presidential campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta, the Mueller report said. The Russian group also hacked the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Initially, the GRU employed a hacking technique known as spearphishing. That’s when a hacker sends an email to a person that contains something like a link to a fake website or an attachment. When a person clicks that link or downloads that document, it could lead to malicious software being installed on that person’s computer or mobile device. The spoof website might ask for personal details about a person, which could include passwords to certain services they use.

National: Threats known and unknown loom in 2020 elections | FCW

U.S. cybersecurity officials are gearing up to prevent foreign malign influence campaigns from impacting the 2020 vote. Experts are divided over whether local election officials and federal agencies should expect the same type of threats targeting election infrastructure and online discourse as they experienced in 2016 or if they should expect the unexpected. On Election Day in 2018, federal officials said they had no indication that voting infrastructure was successfully targeted by cyberattacks or other efforts at manipulation designed to strike voters from the rolls, change vote counts or hinder officials from completing election tallies. But the issue of influence campaigns and as yet unknown vectors of attack remain ripe for discussion as the nation heads into the 2020 vote. Matthew Masterson, a senior advisor at DHS who focuses on election security, said at an April 23 cybersecurity conference that he spends “a lot of time thinking through that undermining confidence [angle] and ways that we can build that resilience, because the reality is you don’t actually even have to touch a system to push a narrative that undermines confidence in the elections process.” Liisa Past, former Chief Research Officer at the Cyber Security Branch of the Estonian Information System Authority, said at the same event that election influence campaigns operate on multiple fronts.

Editorials: The 2020 Election Is Going to Make 2016 Look Like a Student Council Election | Matt Lewis/Daily Beast

It’s time we face facts about 2020. It will be so dirty, brimming with disinformation, and packed with hackers that it’ll make 2016 look like a student council election. On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani went on CNN’s State of the Union and declared, “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.” “You’re assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution,” Rudy averred to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Read the report carefully. The report says we can’t conclude that because the law is pretty much against that. People get information from this person, that person.” Talk about defining deviancy down. Of course, Rudy’s interpretation is open to debate. My read of the Mueller report suggests that opposition research may constitute a “thing of value,” which is tantamount to a contribution. The question, though, is whether anyone on Trump’s team “knowingly and willfully” violated the law. Intent is hard to prove. But let’s assume that Rudy is correct about the legality (he’s a lawyer—I’m not). As the president’s personal attorney, his words have weight. And taking Rudy at his word, why wouldn’t a 2020 campaign be willing to avail itself of information from Russia, Turkey, or China? And why wouldn’t Russia, Turkey, or China oblige?

Delaware: Making each vote count | Sussex Living

Voters heading to the school board elections next month will find something new: updated voting machines, the first major change in more than 20 years to the way the First State casts ballots. Its time had come, State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said. The old machines, from 1996, were obsolete. “The process actually started a few years ago,” she said. “The ballots in the old machines were using Windows XP, and that’s not supported anymore.” Realizing the need, the General Assembly in 2016 formed a Voting Equipment Selection Task Force with Manlove as its chairwoman. Manlove was tasked to research and select up to five vendors for presentation to the task force by March 2017. The committee would recommend which would get a state contract. The panel, however, did not get to work until March 2017, not wrapping up until about three months later. Manlove said a lack of available appointees from the incoming Carney administration and delays by the state Senate in appointing its members to the panel accounted for the lack of progress. Before the task force released any information on the vendors, Delaware’s nonpartisan Common Cause group published the bid documents online and, at the same time, advocated for a paper ballot system it argued was less expensive and not subject to some of the security woes of other electronic systems.

Florida: Former Sen. Bill Nelson says Florida hacking claims vindicated by Mueller report | The Washington Post

A politician is declaring victory after the Mueller report, and it’s not the one you’re thinking of. Former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told The Cybersecurity 202 in a statement that the special counsel’s report vindicates his claims before the 2018 midterms that hackers had penetrated Florida county-level computer networks and could cause grave harm. The FBI and Homeland Security Department both disputed those statements last year as did Florida election officials. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave the comments four Pinocchios. The Mueller report provides some context for Nelson’s claim, revealing for the first time that the FBI believes Kremlin hackers did penetrate the networks of “at least one” Florida county before the 2016 election. But the report, which was released in redacted form Thursday, does not back up the full claim from Nelson, who ultimately lost his reelection bid in 2018 to then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), made during the heat of the campaign. Specifically, Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times that Russian hackers were active inside Florida county networks in 2018, which isn’t stated in the Mueller report. (However, it’s not directly refuted, either.)

Georgia: Election Security Bill Hangs on Governor’s Signature | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When some Georgia voters showed up at the polls last fall, their registrations had mysteriously disappeared without a trace. They couldn’t vote except on provisional ballots. The unsolved case of the missing voter registrations and a federal lawsuit prompted state lawmakers to pass a bill requiring election officials to strengthen protections against hacking, tampering and computer errors.Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would be responsible for creating security protocols for voter registration information consistent with standards set by national cybersecurity and election organizations, according to House Bill 392.The bill is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature or veto. Kemp’s office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.“If the governor signs it, this bill will represent a significant upgrade to the security of the system,” said Max Feldman, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice, a policy institute at New York University focused on democracy and criminal justice that is representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Ensuring that any sort of gaps in security that would expose voters’ registration information or allow third parties to change registration information on the voter registration list is what we’re hoping will be addressed here.”Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said the legislation puts the force of law behind the state’s existing security procedures.“Security of the voting system is Secretary Raffensperger’s top priority,” Fuchs said. “This law recognizes that priority and should help put an end to unfounded speculation and meritless claims that our election data is not secure.”

Minnesota: Partisan drama erupts over election security funds as Republicans skip possible vote | Twin Cities Pioneer Press

What was supposed to be one of the biggest no-brainers of the Minnesota Legislature has erupted into a partisan issue with Republican lawmakers blocking the spending of federal election dollars that every other state in the nation has put to use. On Tuesday, three Republican senators for the second time skipped a meeting that could have resulted in a vote on up to $6.6 million in federal funds that have been approved for more than a year for election cybersecurity as part of the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. In an odd twist: the Republican Senators aren’t saying exactly why they’re blocking it. With the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in U.S. elections, and election officials warning that now is the time to gird against hacking attempts in the 2020 elections, the issue has taken on added urgency as the Legislature hurtles toward a tense final weeks when disagreements over larger issues often drags down smaller issues. That’s what happened last year when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a massive bill that contained volumes of unrelated matters, including a portion of the HAVA funds. The stalling of the money has caught Democrats, including Secretary of State Steve Simon, off guard because the money is sitting in a federal account; it’s not new money and requires only $167,000 in state spending for a local match to free up the federal funds. That’s a pittance of the state’s nearly $50 billion two-year budget.

Editorials: Whether our elections were hacked or not, New Jersey needs new voting machines, politician says | Brendan W. Gill/

As the election year of 2020 approaches, it is clear that technology has changed the world we live in. The overwhelming majority of the changes have been beneficial, but we must always remember that as time and technology progress, we must adapt accordingly. In the days, months, and years following our most recent presidential election, all of us have been bombarded with allegations and news coverage about the possibility that our elections were manipulated. I am compelled to express, emphatically, that protecting the accuracy and veracity of our election results is the most important issue that we need to address to protect our democracy. To that end, I wholeheartedly support Essex County purchasing voting machines that will employ the use of optical scanners and hand-written ballots. My decision to support the purchase and implementation of these voting machines is not driven by the results of the previous presidential election, or any election. There have been many occasions in which an entire segment of a given electorate has been disappointed with the outcome at the polls. However, we can all agree that the integrity of our voting process must be protected.

Utah: Election officials working to thwart cyberattacks like those detailed in Mueller report | Deseret News

While questions continue to resonate after last week’s release of the Mueller report, one of the few undisputed conclusions in the epic document was that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections “in sweeping and systematic fashion.” And special counsel Robert Mueller’s team unveiled new allegations about how Russian intelligence group GRU targeted the country’s election apparatus — even down to the level of county election offices — in an attempt to disrupt and manipulate outcomes. Techniques employed by those state actors underscored what continues to be the most vulnerable component of any cybersecurity system — human operators. Utah election officials say the impacts of those intrusion attempts, on their radars long before the Mueller report became public, have elevated the work and money that is going into keeping the state’s own election process free from bad actors. And the process is one that has no end in sight.

Bulgaria: Election Commission picks company to supply voting machines | The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has picked a winner in the tender for the hire of 3000 voting machines for the country’s May 26 European Parliament elections. Three bidders submitted offers before the deadline, but CEC said that two were disqualified – one on the grounds that its bid was higher than the 7.5 million leva (about 3.8 million euro) cost ceiling set by CEC, the other because its offer did not meet the technical specifications set by the watchdog. The winner, Ciela Norma, said that it was prepared to meet all the deadlines even though it faced a slew of issues. A company official told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT) that some voting machines were yet to be manufactured and shipped to Bulgaria and the software was not ready, given that CEC was yet to finalise its requirements on the printouts produced by the voting machines. Under the terms of CEC’s tender, the machines have to be delivered by May 10, with software installation due to be completed by May 15, followed by 10 days for certification and audits. The voting machines would be then shipped to voting precincts on May 25.

Egypt: Referendum on Extending Sissi’s Rule Riddled with Irregularities | VoA News

As voters lined up outside the polls in Cairo Saturday, music blared and some among the crowds danced and waved Egyptian flags. Many people held flyers with a photograph of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and a green checkmark. The message? Vote “yes.” If passed, the constitutional changes proposed in the ballot could extend the president’s rule to 2030, and deepen the military’s role in communities. The Egyptian Parliament overwhelmingly supported the changes and announced the national vote on Wednesday. Results are expected by April 27. Opponents to the measure say the changes will roll back the democratic dreams of 2011, when a popular uprising lead to the ousting of 30-year dictator, Hosni Mubarak and that the referendum is marred by corruption and coercion. Supporters say a secure leadership will make Egypt safer and help the country climb out of economic crisis. “The legislative impact would be basically handing over all powers to the presidency,” explained Hisham Kassem, a veteran Egyptian publisher and analyst in an interview ahead of the vote.

Ukraine: How IBM X-Force IRIS Prepared for the Ukraine Election | Security Intelligence

You may not have been aware there was a presidential election in Ukraine last Sunday, but all eyes in the cybersecurity and intelligence communities were keenly focused on this event. In the past few years, cyberattacks targeting elections in democratic countries, including the U.S., have become increasingly disruptive. And in the past few months, international observers have seen disinformation campaigns attempting to influence the outcome of the Ukraine election. Leading up to the election, the IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS) team had been preparing to observe and analyze possible attempts of foreign interference in the election. Although it appears that a major cyber disaster was averted, we were ready for the worst. After the cascading damage of the NotPetya attack in 2017 — which originally targeted Ukraine before hitting organizations and users in dozens of countries, at an estimated cost of up to $10 billion, according to Wired — we recognize that the risk of a major cyberattack on Ukraine could be the bleed-over to the rest of the world. IBM Security has many clients, including some of the largest financial and logistics companies, that need to be resilient in an attack or face potential damages in the millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. We needed to prepare a response to go at a moment’s notice.