Just because online voting is possible, doesn’t mean the U.S. government should try it for national elections any time soon. That’s the message computer security experts and advocates for voting rights are trying to get across to American voters. David Jefferson, a Lawrence Livermore computer scientist, said Thursday that hosting a national election online poses a national security threat. Jefferson was part of a press conference hosted by Common Cause, a transparency advocacy organization. He pointed out three fundamental areas of attack by hackers or viruses, with no immediate solutions for online voting. “Client side” attacks would trigger malicious software in a voter’s computer or smartphone itself. “Server side” attacks could bring down the servers that would collect and count the votes and the “denial of service” attacks could actually prevent people from voting and take the server down. “There is no fundamental solution to any of these categories of problems, and at least for the client or server side, anyone in the world can initiate such an attack. It can be completely undetectable so the outcome would be wrong and no one would know about it,” said Jefferson, who serves on the board of the Verified Voting Foundation and California Voter Foundation. Even if a faulty outcome is discovered, he added, there would be no way to correct it as there would be no audit trail to “recount.” See Verified Voting Blog: Statement on the Dangers of Internet Voting in Public Elections
While there hasn’t been much of a push on the national level to implement internet voting, a few states have cautiously begun to look into the option. Kentucky state lawmakers proposed allowing military members overseas to cast email ballots and while the bill is still being drafted, the dangers are also being closely scrutinized. In all 32 states and the District of Columbia allow members of the armed forces and overseas voters to return their ballots electronically either via internet portal, fax or email, according to Verified Voting, a non-partisan organization advocating for the transparency and verifiability of elections.
Barbara Simmons, who currently is on the board of advisers of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and served on the Security Peer Review Group for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Internet voting project with Jefferson, urged for citizens to think of the situation as equal to the cyber security threats the government references.
“The president talked about cyber security threats in the State of the Union, [former] Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton talked about it in her hearings. These are the kind of threats [facing] internet voting,” Simmons said. “If people can solve the internet voting problem, they can solve the cyber security problem.”