In late April, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suspected that something was wrong with their network and called in the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to investigate. A few weeks later, after routine testing, the suspicions were confirmed: The committee had been hacked by the Russians. … As DNC documents were leaked throughout the summer and into the fall, the episode put the United States on notice that Vladimir Putin’s government is intent on influencing the 2016 election, Alperovitch said during a panel discussion at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). That could mean a couple of things, he said. Russia might try to hack voting machines or it could mount a disinformation campaign to discredit the eventual results. “The fundamental objective here by the Russians is not necessarily to get one person or another elected as president,” said Alperovitch. “The fundamental objective is actually much more nefarious, which is to undermine the very idea of a free and fair election — the cornerstone of our democracy.” The decentralized nature of the U.S. vote should protect against a widespread intrusion, said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan advocacy group. Each of the 9,000 election jurisdictions across the country has its own systems and procedures, meaning no single point of failure could disrupt the tally nationwide.
Additionally, many jurisdictions have mitigation systems that would help election officials reconstruct voters’ intent if electronic voting machines break down or are compromised by an attack. At least 75 percent of voters casting ballots between now and Nov. 8 will do so on machines that have either a paper ballot or a paper backup. However, five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina — have no paper trail whatsoever. Another nine, including swing state Pennsylvania, have some jurisdictions that rely on paperless voting.
Voting isn’t the only vulnerability. Every state has a computerized voter registration database that could be susceptible to hacking. Already this year, two states — Arizona and Illinois — have seen their registration systems breached. The questions now, according to Smith, include: Can records of who is registered to vote be tampered with or deleted? And, if so, how does that affect the election? “The breaches … in June and July of the voter registration systems coupled with the DNC hack of the emails really brought a lot of people up short and made them realize this is not so much theoretical,” said Smith. “This is happening. We need to check our systems.”
Full Article: As Americans vote, will hackers pounce? | Harvard Gazette.