National: Hacker conference report details persistent vulnerabilities to US voting systems | Maggie Miller/The Hill

U.S. voting systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks three years after documented efforts to penetrate election machines, according to a report released Thursday. The report is based on the findings of the white-hat hacker DEF CON Voting Village, an annual gathering of hackers that uses election machines to find vulnerabilities that could allow someone to interfere with the voting process. This year’s event allowed hackers to test voting equipment, including e-poll books, optical scan paper voting devices and direct recording electronic voting machines — all certified for use in at least one U.S. voting jurisdiction. “Voting Village participants were able to find new ways, or replicate previously published methods, of compromising every one of the devices in the room in ways that could alter stored vote tallies, change ballots displayed to voters, or alter the internal software that controls the machines,” the report said. Despite the “disturbing” findings of the report, the authors wrote that the findings were “not surprising,” particularly in light of the fact that many of the election equipment cyber vulnerabilities found were “reported almost a decade earlier.” Equipment that was tested included those made by leading voting machines companies Election Systems and Software (ES&S) and Dominion Systems.

National: Some Voting Machines Still Have Decade-Old Vulnerabilities | Lily Hay Newman/WIRED

In three short years, the Defcon Voting Village has gone from a radical hacking project to a stalwart that surfaces voting machine security issues. This afternoon, its organizers released findings from this year’s event—including urgent vulnerabilities from a decade ago that still plague voting machines currently in use. Voting Village participants have confirmed the persistence of these flaws in previous years as well, along with a raft of new ones. But that makes their continued presence this year all the more alarming, underscoring how slow progress on replacing or repairing vulnerable machines remains. Participants vetted dozens of voting machines at Defcon this year, including a prototype model built on secure, verified hardware through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. Today’s report highlights detailed vulnerability findings related to six models of voting machines, most of which are currently in use. That includes the ES&S AutoMARK, used in 28 states in 2018, and Premier/Diebold AccuVote-OS, used in 26 states that same year.

National: Hacking 2020 voting systems is a ‘piece of cake’ | Lisa Vaas/Naked Security

It’s still child’s play to pick apart election systems that will be used in the 2020 US presidential election, as ethical hackers did, once again, over the course of two and a half days at the Voting Village corner of the DefCon 27 security conference in August. The results are sobering. This is the third year they’ve been at it, and security is still abysmal. On Thursday, Voting Village organizers went to Capitol Hill to release their findings, in an event attended by election security funding boosters Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Jackie Speier. In a nutshell: in August, hackers easily compromised every single one of the more than 100 machines to which they were given access, many with what they called “trivial attacks” that required “no sophistication or special knowledge on the part of the attacker.” They didn’t get their hands on every flavor of voting system in use in the country, but every one of the machines they compromised is currently certified for use in at least one voting jurisdiction, including direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, electronic poll books, Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), optical scanners and hybrid systems.

National: With Sanctions on Russians, U.S. Warns Against Foreign Election Meddling | Lara Jakes/The New York Times

The United States issued new economic sanctions on Monday against seven Russians linked to an internet troll factory in what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called a warning to foreigners who seek to interfere in American elections. The penalties were announced as Congress is investigating whether President Trump tried to enlist Ukraine’s leader in a political smear campaign against one of his top Democratic challengers in 2020, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “We have been clear: We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections,” Mr. Pompeo said in a sharp statement. “The United States will continue to push back against malign actors who seek to subvert our democratic processes,” Mr. Pompeo continued, “and we will not hesitate to impose further costs on Russia for its destabilizing and unacceptable activities.” The Treasury Department said the sanctions sought to punish attempts to influence the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats won control of the House. Early last year, the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and companies linked to the Internet Research Agency on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

National: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election | Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima/The Washington Post

President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him. A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. The White House’s classification of records about Trump’s communications with foreign officials is now a central part of the impeachment inquiry launched this week by House Democrats. An intelligence community whistleblower has alleged that the White House placed a record of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, in which he offered U.S. assistance investigating his political opponents, into a code-word classified system reserved for the most sensitive intelligence information.

Georgia: Under Court Order, Georgia Rolls Out New Voting System | Daniel Jackson/Courthouse News

The plastic film protecting the screens of four tablets used to mark ballots were not yet peeled off, though they were growing dog-eared on the edges, when residents of Catoosa County became some of the first voters in the state to test Georgia’s new voting machines. About 50 residents of Catoosa County sipped on fruit punch in the building that houses the Catoosa County Elections & Voter Registration Department Monday evening. In a few moments, they were about to cast ballots in a demonstration election that asked questions such as the name of Georgia’s state bird (the brown thrasher). Georgia announced in July that it had chosen a new method of conducting elections after a contentious 2018 gubernatorial election left voting rights activists questioning the integrity of the state’s voting system. A ballot-marking system that allows voters to fill out their votes on a screen, which prints out a ballot, which the voter then feeds into a scanner produced by Dominion Voting Systems was the winning bid, costing the state $107 million. Most Georgia voters will continue to use the old system, which records votes digitally, one last time in November elections this year. Catoosa County, a short drive from the Tennessee city of Chattanooga, is one of six counties piloting the new system, which include Carroll, Bartow, Decatur, Paulding and Lowndes counties. It’s a voting system that, according to its critics, failed to solve the problems of the old voting system.

Illinois: McHenry County officials requesting Board of Elections support during 2020 elections | Drew Zimmerman/Northwest Herald

Over the past few years, McHenry County has been subjected to multiple election errors, including technology failures and incorrect ballots. To ensure these problems don’t crop up in the 2020 primary and general elections – which are shaping up to have record turnouts – McHenry County officials are looking toward the Illinois Board of Elections for assistance to ensure a smooth and accurate process. On Monday, McHenry County Board member Michael Vijuk sent a letter to IBOE Executive Director Steve Sandvoss requesting any support and resources the agency could bring to ensure the entire voting process is secure. “My plea is not one based on a hasty reaction to a comment or two, but to the problems that I have observed as an election judge, McHenry County Board member and citizen of the county,” Vijuk wrote. “The McHenry County Clerk’s Office has had [sobering] problems that may have directly and indirectly deprived the rights of voters in the 2016 election, the 2018 election, and the 2019 consolidated election. My faith has been shaken in the office’s ability to prevail over these deficiencies without your office’s assistance.”

Indiana: State Putting $10 Million Toward Election Security | Kevin Green/Greensburg Daily News

By the next election, one in 10 direct recording electronic (DREs) voting machines in Indiana will have a small black box attached to them that will let voters see a printout of their ballot, providing a paper trail that can be used in post-election audits. Secretary of State Connie Lawson held one-on-one interviews with reporters to discuss the new voting equipment as well as the other steps her office is taking to assure Hoosiers that every ballot cast in an election will be accurately counted. “I still believe that the most important concern for us is voter confidence,” Lawson said Wednesday. “We want voters to know that the vote they cast is counted the way it was cast and that elections are safe and secure.” Lawson will go to the State Budget Committee Friday to ask for the release of $10 million that had been budgeted during the legislative session for election security. The committee is meeting at Purdue University.

Louisiana: Early voting errors prompt paper ballots | Robb Hays/WAFB

A small number of errors with Louisiana’s early voting machines has led to some voters having to use a paper ballot, election officials said Tuesday, Oct. 1. Louisiana Secretary of State spokesman Tyler Brey says, as of late Tuesday afternoon, the error has only occurred 20 times among the nearly 120,000 votes cast statewide thus far. At least one of the errors occurred with an early voting machine at the Coursey Boulevard location in Baton Rouge. In that case, the machine displayed an error message after the voter had made his selections for all races and tried to submit his ballot, that voter reported. Brey says the paper ballots are counted on election night after being verified by the Board of Elections Supervisors in each parish.

Michigan: State officials move to secure voting systems ahead of 2020 elections | Quinn Klinefelter/Michigan Radio

Michigan is taking steps to secure the state’s voting systems from potential cyberattacks during the 2020 elections. Federal officials warn that hackers are targeting the upcoming elections — plotting everything from obtaining voter information to spreading disinformation by planting stories online that ballots had been changed. To help combat that, Michigan has hired its first-ever election security specialist. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says it’s just one in a series of moves designed to safeguard the sanctity of the voting booth. “Well, we are far better than other states in that we have optical scan machines. So we have hand-marked paper ballots and our machines, for the most part, are not connected to the Internet or transmitting over the Internet,” says Benson.

New York: With Under a Month To Go, Board of Elections Mum on Shift to Electronic Poll Books | Ethan Geringer-Sameth/Gotham Gazette

With just one month before New York rolls out early voting for the first time, it is unclear exactly where the city’s Board of Elections stands on acquiring and readying new technology considered essential to the new voting system. BOE commissioners and staff have been discussing the acquisition of electronic poll books at board meetings since January, when the State Legislature passed and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law establishing early voting and authorizing counties to purchase the new tech, which enables implementation of early voting. In June, the State Board of Elections approved three vendors that counties could contract with, and the same month the city BOE appeared to have chosen one. But as of late September, the city board has been silent on its progress toward purchasing the 10,000 e-poll books it says it requires, much less loading them with the voter rolls and training staff to use them.

North Carolina: State election officials stand by voting machine decisions | Travis Fain/WRAL

State Board of Elections staff on Tuesday stood by the process used to certify new election machines. For weeks, activists, reporters and board members have asked for more information about the tests run on machines that were approved in August, which was a long-awaited step required before counties could buy new machines to use in the 2020 elections. On Tuesday, Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell and key staff presented a 10-page response that boils down to this: The process laid out in state code was followed, and the systems can be used in the coming elections. The issue may still bring a lawsuit from activists who have questioned the process for more than a month as part of a broader push to require hand-written ballots in North Carolina instead of allowing touchscreen voting machines that spit out a paper ballot and record votes in a bar code. At least one board member left Tuesday’s three-hour-plus board meeting unsatisfied. “My concerns, my misgivings … largely remain,” Stella Anderson said as the meeting wrapped.

Oregon: Hackers Stymied by Vote-by-Mail in Oregon | Governing

Oregon has an advantage over many other states because voters here decided to go to a vote-by-mail system in 1998, said Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, who oversees local elections. That eliminated the need for voting machines at polling places. “I think we’re one of the leaders in election security,” Walker said of Oregon. The Jackson County Elections Division does have tally equipment to count all those votes that come in by mail. But Walker said the equipment isn’t connected to the internet — a setup that thwarts would-be hackers. Jackson County’s tally equipment is only two years old, she said. “We try to keep up on the technology to make sure the votes are tallied the way the voter intended and to give confide once in the system,” Walker said.

West Virginia: FBI investigating attempted breach of Voatz mobile voting app | Mark Albert/WTAE

One or more people tried to penetrate West Virginia’s mobile voting system during the Midterm election, the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit has confirmed, leading to new worries about the security of certain election platforms ahead of next year’s general election. The Mountain State was the first to use mobile voting for military and overseas voters. Tuesday’s announcement in the state capital of Charleston by state and federal authorities of the attempted breach came on the first day of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Mike Stuart, says the case has now been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for investigation. Sources tell the National Investigative Unit the attempted intrusion of the mobile voting app is believed to have come from inside the U.S., not from overseas. At a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Charleston, Stuart delivered a warning to anyone who may attempt to breach an election system. “Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. We’re serious about maintaining the integrity of our election system and we will prosecute those folks who violate federal law,” Stuart said.

Afghanistan: Biometric machines in Afghan vote improve after last year’s glitches | Rod Nikel/Reuters

Biometric machines aimed at preventing fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election performed better than in a poll last year but still left voters waiting a long time to cast their ballots, election observers said on Saturday. The machines were used for the first time in the October parliamentary poll, when many malfunctioned or failed to work altogether. Chaos during that vote was blamed on the machines’ performance, along with incomplete voting lists and delays in holding the election. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) decided to use the machines during the presidential election but gave staff more training and issued spare batteries for the devices at each of the polling centers in a country with chronic power shortages. Polling stations, which each had one device, had paper registration forms as backup in case biometric verification failed.

Canada: ‘It’ll be something new’: Canadian election interference likely in unexpected places | Penny Daflos/CTV

The upcoming Canadian election is the first test for new laws and social media policies, and while online activity suggests they’re being effective in curbing disinformation, experts are already warning that those seeking to manipulate the election or create chaos among voters have moved on to new tactics. Analysis from Twitter, Facebook and academics suggests that malicious, manufactured and “fake news” content is not as widespread as in previous years, largely due to efforts to zero in on and remove that kind of material as quickly as possible. SFU public communication professor Ahmed Al-Rawi is one of many academics across the country scrutinizing online activity for signs of foreign or domestic interference; he hasn’t found any. “I’ve downloaded over a million tweets and analyzed the ‘canpoli’ hashtag and I could not find any large activity of bots (automated re-tweeting accounts),” said Al-Rawi, who is continuing to assess those tweets throughout the campaign.

China: Beijing’s Online Manipulation and Interference During the Election | Marcus Kolga/Epoch Times

Over the past three years, a growing din of alarm bells have warned us about the threat of Russian foreign influence campaigns against our elections, our media, and our democracy. Other malign totalitarian regimes have engaged in similar operations to manipulate our perceptions in efforts to polarize debate and divide us. China is no exception. Over the past weeks, a massive “state-backed information operation” targeting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and activists was detected and exposed by major social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Twitter identified some 200,000 accounts, many of which “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” According to Twitter’s research, most of the accounts and their subversive activity has been “state-backed.” Based on a tip from Twitter, Facebook suspended several China-based accounts, groups, and pages that exposed thousands of Facebook users to disinformation aimed at undermining support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.