The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials. The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections. Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.
… Federal and state election officials say that the prospect of a full-blown cyberattack that seriously disrupts the November elections is remote, but not out of the question. About 40 states use optical-scan electronic-voting machines, allowing voters to fill out their choices on paper. The results are tabulated by computers.
These are “reasonably safe” because the voting machines are backed up by paper ballots that can be checked, says Andrew W. Appel, a Princeton University computer science professor who has studied election security. But six states and parts of four others (including large swaths of Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state in this year’s race) are more vulnerable because they rely on paperless touchscreen voting, known as DREs or Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines, for which there are no paper ballot backups.
“Then whatever numbers the voting computer says at the close of the polls are completely under the control of the computer program in there,” Appel wrote in a recent blog post entitled “Security Against Election Hacking.” “If the computer is hacked, then the hacker gets to decide what numbers are reported. … All DRE (paperless touchscreen) voting computers are susceptible to this kind of hacking. This is our biggest problem.” Another area of concern cited by Appel and other experts is the growing number of states that allow overseas and military voters to cast their ballots online.
Full Article: FBI says foreign hackers penetrated state election systems.