The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has offered assistance to state officials attempting to prevent hacking of voting systems, but experts say the equipment remains highly vulnerable to manipulation with two months until Election Day. Amid reports of hackers accessing voting data in Arizona and Illinois, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson held a conference call with secretaries of state from across the country last month. DHS is considering whether to declare election systems “critical infrastructure,” a move that would give the government the same level of oversight of elections that it has over the financial system and power grids. … “Hacking elections is easy,” a new report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) states bluntly. “Electronic voting machines are black-box, unsecured endpoints that feature vulnerabilities that would be scandalous in any other sectors,” said James Scott, senior fellow at ICIT and co-author of the report, “such as a lack of native security applications, open networked connections, a non-verifiable chain of custody, a reliance on personnel who are not trained to practice even basic cyber-hygiene, and other critical vulnerabilities.” The ICIT report lays out a number of potential threats, most related to voting machines being antiquated and poorly-secured devices that lack some of the basic safeguards home PCs now have.
… Common Cause has recommended all states adopt systems that allow for paper-based auditing. Most states now do, but some districts in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Virginia still use electronic systems that produce no verifiable paper trail. …
Susannah Goodman, director of the voting integrity program at Common Cause, said many states have implemented paper-based redundancies in their electronic voting systems to protect against malfunctions, human error, and hacking. “You can’t hack paper,” Goodman said. She said physical hacks of voting machines are “possible but not probable,” particularly in states that can audit their results on paper. They are also unlikely to be attempted by foreign nation-states.
Goodman supports the idea of categorizing the election system as critical infrastructure and protecting it like the power grid. In the meantime, though, she said state officials are on high alert for both malicious and unintentional voting irregularities. “I know the election officials are working hard on this issue. Everyone is very concerned… The more vigilant we are, the better off we’ll be,” she said.