National: DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) plans to prioritize election security, cybersecurity at federal agencies, and the “persistent threat” posed by China, among its many goals. The agency laid out its key priorities in a new “strategic intent” document released on Thursday, which CISA Director Christopher Krebs described in the introduction as the “keystone” for the agency. Among Krebs’s operational priorities is addressing Chinese threats to U.S. supply chains and to the rollout of 5G networks, bolstering election security efforts at the state and local level, and protecting the cybersecurity of industrial control systems. Other priorities are protecting federal networks against cyber attacks, such as ransomware incidents that have increasingly spread across the country, and defending “soft targets” and crowded venues from physical threats. CISA is the primary agency responsible for assisting state and local governments with securing elections, replacing the former National Protection and Programs Directorate in a law that took effect last year.

National: Internet-Connected Election Systems Found in 10 U.S. States | Scott Ikeda/CPO Magazine

There has been much talk in the media about interference in United States presidential elections, but most of it has centered around the use of media and disinformation to influence votes. There is a widespread assumption that the voting machines themselves are safe from hacking; though many are electronic, these election systems are not supposed to be connected to the internet. A new report from Vice’s Motherboard indicates that these systems are not nearly as secure as anyone thought they were, including election officials. Researchers told Motherboard that a particular type of election system that is only supposed to connect to the internet for several minutes to transfer votes has been found to sometimes stay connected for months, and in some cases these machines were constantly connected and were exposed for at least a year. The election systems found to be vulnerable are made by a specific manufacturer: Election Systems & Software (ESS). ESS is the largest voting systems company in the country, with at least 260,000 machines in place in 21 states including in some swing states. Security researchers found backend systems that were connected to the internet when they were not supposed to be, distributed across a number of states including the key “battleground” centers of Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.

National: IT Security Pros: Encryption Backdoors Would Be Election Hacking Risk | Phil Muncaster/Infosecurity Magazine

The IT security community overwhelmingly believes that government-mandated encryption backdoors will put countries at a greater risk of election hacking, according to new Venafi research. The security vendor polled over 380 security professionals at Black Hat USA 2019 in Las Vegas earlier this month, following recent comments by attorney general, William Barr. Like his predecessors, Barr last month claimed that strong data encryption in tech products is effectively creating a “law-free zone” exploited by terrorists and criminals as it “seriously degrades” the ability of law enforcement to detect and prevent crimes. Also like many others, he argued that government-mandated backdoor access “can and must be done,” claiming that if they only tried hard enough, tech firms could find a solution which could enable lawful access to data without undermining security for all users. This argument has been repeatedly shot down, not only by the tech firms themselves, but also world-renowned cryptography experts. Last year they backed senator Ron Wyden’s demands that the FBI explain the technical basis for its repeated claims that encryption backdoors can be engineered without impacting user security.

National: Election Security Lessons from DEFCON 27 | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy/Brennan Center for Justice

Given the extent of foreign interference in the 2016 election, every American should be concerned about election security in 2020. But what can computer hackers teach us about it? To find out, I went to Las Vegas earlier this month to attend DEFCON 27, the largest annual hacking conference in the United States, knowing this was probably my last chance to see a legal election hacking. Voting machines are protected from reverse engineering under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But the Library of Congress, which has certain authorities under the law, set a three-year window to allow third parties access to voting machines to test their security. Barring an extension by the Library of Congress, 2019 is the third and last year these hacks are legal. DEFCON is a huge event, and I saw fellow conference-goers all over Las Vegas with their distinctive glowing badges. I was only interested in the DEFCON Voting Village, which included a large assortment of voting equipment for participants to test, hack, and break.

National: Democrats call for a Senate vote on elections reform package | Jennifer McDermott/Associated Press

Democratic congressmen held an event Thursday in Rhode Island to try to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into allowing a vote on a comprehensive elections and ethics reform package. Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, who is the bill’s main author, met with Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in North Providence. The influence of big money in politics is impeding efforts to address climate change, gun violence and prescription drug costs, they said. Activists working on those issues attended the event. “This isn’t just some theory, like wouldn’t it be good to reform government because good government is an abstract idea,” Cicilline said. “It has a direct effect on people’s lives. The corrupting influence of money and its impact on public policy is hurting the American people.”

National: Microsoft ElectionGuard aims to fix America’s broken voting | Mark Wilson/Fast Company

Voting is broken. From the hanging chad debacle of 2000 to the 2018 midterms when decade-old touchscreen computers cast the wrong votes, to long lines outside polling places, our democratic right to elect our own officials is constantly at odds with unreliable equipment and balloting policies that vary from one district to the next. And this is all not to mention that voting machines are absurdly hackable. It’s enough to make people not want to vote at all. But what if you could vote however you wanted to vote? Which could mean at home or, if you’re a person with a disability, with the assistance of specialized hardware? What if you could go online later and ensure your vote was your vote, and that it counted? What if you could write your own piece of software to do a recount of, or audit, your small town’s mayoral election instantly? That’s the vision of ElectionGuard, a new project by Microsoft, which debuted this summer at the Aspen Security Forum. ElectionGuard is an open code standard, that anyone can audit, freely use, and plug into, to create secure digital voting machines that remove many of the barriers of voting. Microsoft teamed up with Tucker Viemeister, a renowned industrial designer who spent years at prestigious firms including Frog, Smart Design, and Rockwell Group designing devices like hair dryers and coffee makers, to build something of a concept car for the future of voting—mostly out of off-the-shelf parts.

Georgia: Voters raise concerns about new voting system to state board | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Voters told Georgia’s election board Wednesday they’re deeply worried about the security and accuracy of the state’s new voting system and they urged the board to enact strong rules that ensure vote counts are correct.
The Secretary of State’s office announced it has started creating standards for recounts, audits and security of paper ballots that will be printed out by voting machines, which are scheduled to be used by Georgia voters statewide during the March 24 presidential primary.The 10 voters who spoke to the State Election Board, which is responsible for making election rules and investigating violations, said they distrust the $107 million voting system that Georgia bought from Denver-based Dominion this month. They doubted that computer-printed ballots will safeguard elections.“If a voter cannot recall every race and choice, she cannot identify whether the machine printout accurately reflects her intentions, or instead added, dropped or changed one of her choices,” said Rhonda Martin, a Fulton County voter. “No valid audit can be conducted on the basis of unverifiable source documents.”

North Carolina: Election officials closely watching state vote on voting systems Friday as 2019, 2020 races loom | Emily Featherston/WECT

Along with everything else it takes to prepare for the upcoming 2019 municipal elections, and the 2020 primaries close on their heels, election officials in southeastern North Carolina are also waiting to see what kind of equipment they will be able to use. On Friday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections is expected to finally make a decision that will dictate what machines voters use to cast a ballot. Most of the attention has been focused on the state’s move away from touchscreen equipment that only generates an electronic ballot, as counties across North Carolina wait to see what equipment will be approved for them to buy. New Hanover County is also waiting for the state’s stamp of approval for the replacement of its outdated voting equipment. New Hanover County last purchased ballot tabulators in 2006, explained county board of elections director Rae Hunter-Havens. Those machines typically have a lifespan of just 10 years — and they are starting to show their age. “We’ve exceeded that end-of-life projection,” Hunter-Havens said, and that means increasing mechanical issues.

Rhode Island: Security expert offers solution to prevent hacking of election computers in Rhode Island next year | Edward Fitzpatrick/The Boston Globe

A computer security expert is proposing a solution that would let the state Board of Elections bolster its cybersecurity on Election Day without having to rip out modems that make the state’s election system vulnerable to cyberattacks. On Aug. 2, the Board of Elections asked Tony Adams, an information security professional who lives in Providence, to write a memo suggesting ways to reduce the risk of hacking on election night, when modems are used to quickly report unofficial results. In an Aug. 14 memo, Adams suggests having the modems report unofficial results to computers that are separate from the state’s core election computer system, which configures ballots and tabulates official results. That way, if hackers did penetrate the system on election night, they couldn’t change the official results or hold the whole system hostage with ransomware, for example, he said. “This idea is so elegant you have to ask: Why didn’t I think of that?” Board of Elections Vice Chairman Stephen P. Erickson said this week. “Because you don’t have to spend a lot of money, it’s relatively simple to implement, and it will substantially increase the level of security — and the perceived security, which is important.”

Texas: Palo Pinto County to Block State Network Access for Security | David May/Mineral Wells Index

If state officials want to perform a security or other audits of the local elections office, they may have to come to Palo Pinto to do it. Joey Fenley, head of Palo Pinto County’s Information Technology department, said allowing remote access to the county’s network through an offsite connection – such as software using a virtual private network – puts the county’s network at risk of receiving a virus or, worse, ransomware. He said it is a breach of the county’s network security protocols. Fenley questions why the state would perform a network security audit using an insecure method. “It’s done by a third party and you don’t know who they are,” Fenley told the Index.

International: Intel, IBM, Google, Microsoft & others join new security-focused industry group | Catalin Cimpanu/ZDNet

Some of the biggest names in the cloud and hardware ecosystem have agreed to join a new industry group focused on promoting safe computing practices. Founding members include Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, Google Cloud, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Red Hat, Swisscom, and Tencent. Named the Confidential Computing Consortium, this industry group’s goals will be to come up with strategies and tools to accelerate the adoption of “confidential computing.” By confidential computing, the group is referring to hardware and software-based technical solutions for isolating user data inside a computer’s memory while it’s being processed, to avoid exposing it to other applications, the operating system, or other cloud server tenants. The easiest way of supporting confidential computing practices is through the use of trusted execution environments (TEEs), also known as enclaves. These are hardware and/or software-enforced private regions of a computer’s CPU memory where only certain apps can write and read data.

Argentina: Hackers Leaked Sensitive Government Data in Argentina—and Nobody Cares | Eugenia Lostri/Lawfare

On Monday, Aug. 12, hackers leaked 700 GB of data obtained from the government of Argentina, including confidential documents, wiretaps and biometric information from the Argentine Federal Police, along with the personal data of police officers. The Twitter account of the Argentine Naval Prefecture was hacked as well, and used not only to share links to the stolen information but also to spread fake news about a nonexistent British attack on Argentine ships. An operation combining the hacking of law enforcement agencies, an attempt to spread misinformation through social media and the leaking of large amounts of sensitive data on the “Deep Web” would seem to check all the boxes for a major news story. But you most likely have not heard about any of this.

India: VVPAT-auditing data and credibility of electronic voting machines | Atanu Biswas/The Tribune

Even as some top politicians are raising doubts and have made references to the alleged manipulation of EVMs (electronic voting machines), millions of voters in the country are getting confused. Common people don’t understand the mechanism of a complicated machine like the EVM. Rather, they depend on the institutions and/or their leaders to frame their opinions. However, there was a VVPAT-auditing of the EVMs — five per Assembly constituency of the country — as directed by the Supreme Court. One obvious, yet important, question is how the opinion on EVMs will be reframed with the VVPAT-auditing data. A voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip is nothing but a machine-generated ballot paper, verified by the voter himself/herself. And if the VVPAT counts are further tallied with the corresponding EVM counts, that would give a double-check. The objective of tallying VVPAT counts with the corresponding EVM counts is to check whether the EVMs are tampered with or not. If there is no mismatch for a machine, one can safely conclude that there is no tampering in that EVM, at least.

Russia: Prominent journalist Alexey Venediktov has accused ‘Meduza’ of cheating to prove Moscow’s online voting system is hackable. He’s wrong. | Mikhail Zelenskiy/Meduza

This September’s elections for the Moscow City Duma have already gained renown for inspiring regular mass protests, but they are also remarkable for another reason: In three of the Russian capital’s districts, voters will be able to use an online system to select their new representatives. Moscow’s Information Technology Department held intrusion tests on GitHub in late July to verify the integrity of the system: Officials gave programmers several opportunities to attempt to decrypt mock voting data, and each round of data was subsequently published so that it could be compared to the results of those hacking attempts. On August 16, Meduza reported on French cryptographer Pierrick Gaudry’s successful attempt to break through the system’s encryption. To confirm that the encryption keys used in the system are too weak, we also implemented Gaudry’s program ourselves. City Hall officials responded to the successful hackings by refusing to post its private keys and data, thereby preventing outsiders from confirming that the system had indeed been hacked. Instead, Ekho Moskvy Editor-in-Chief Alexey Venediktov, who is also leading the citizens’ board responsible for the elections, accused Meduza of abusing the testing process. Here’s why he’s wrong.

Switzerland: Swiss post rolls out more secure version of e-voting platform | SWI

The publicly-owned company Swiss Post, which had abandoned its electronic voting system in July over security concerns, has developed a new version. “We have already proposed a solution” to cantons, said general manager Roberto Cirillo in an interview published by the La Liberté newspaper on Friday. According to Cirillo, the company is in the process of defining the rules for testing the new system with cantons. He stressed that the new version will “contain universal verifiability”. At the beginning of July, Swiss Post abandoned its electronic voting system, which means it now cannot be used for the October federal parliamentary elections. The decision was made after subjecting the e-voting system to an intrusion test by thousands of hackers last spring. According to Swiss Post, they were unable to penetrate the electronic ballot box, but found serious errors in the source code, which had to be corrected. The cantons of Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Thurgau and Basel City had adopted this e-voting system, which only offered individual verifiability. Three of them already plan to demand compensation from Swiss Post for failure to deliver.