There’s one shadowy figure that will likely linger in the minds of Germans on Sunday as they head to the voting booths to elect the country’s government: the hacker. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party are expected to retain their position in government with a coalition of other parties. It’s the third high-profile election on mainland Europe in 2017, following the Netherlands and France. Both staved off far-right contenders to bring some stability to the European Union, which is contending with Brexit negotiations and relations with U.S. President Donald Trump. After last November’s U.S. presidential election and talk of Russian interference, German officials have repeatedly issued warnings about maintaining the election’s security. As election day approaches, the specter of hacking threats still looms.
German media has reported that officials have a “cautious all clear” for Sunday. However, in early September, researchers from the Chaos Computer Club found vulnerabilities in the software used to tally votes from constituencies. They found the software, PC-Wahl, did not verify its updates, used default credentials making “takeover quite feasible,” and did not use secure connections for transferring data.
The one saving grace is that it would have been unlikely to alter tallies without detection.
“The software is used to aggregate and forward the results of certain constituencies to provide an early extrapolation or preliminary result,” said researcher Thorsten Schroeder. The votes themselves are still carried out with pen and paper.