Recent attempts at campaign-directed cyber-attacks have raised red flags about just how vulnerable the upcoming U.S. election is to hackers. With the FBI currently investigating alleged Russian efforts to undermine the Democratic Party through hacking attempts, how concerned should elections officials – and voters — be about the security of electronic voting procedures? One of the most obvious ways for a hacker to tamper with the election is to interfere with the way people actually cast their votes. The most vulnerable aspect of the voting process is the individual ballot, and the collection and tallying of those votes. But in a digital world, far more is susceptible to tampering than the ballot itself. With digital tools integrated throughout the electoral process, from online voter registration, to information about when, where, and how to vote, to services for inquiries and complaints, potential weak spots show up long before anyone casts the first vote.
… Bruce McConnell, former deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security, recently recommended that the agency issue a security alert warning election officials of potential vulnerabilities in their voting systems and machines, advising them of the importance of a paper trail, and calling on the manufacturers of voting machines to publish the results of independent audits and tests.
U.S. elections are locally run, with thousands of different systems and varying degrees of security. But in this case, the bad news is also the good news. As Coleman explains, “In a closed election, a technical hack can make all the difference, hacking in would hack the whole system. In the U.S. voting is very decentralized, which means a hack to the system wouldn’t hack the whole system, so it would be hard to massively undermine it. That said, because it has been a close race, one state might be enough.”