Election Day presents a tantalizing target for a malicious hacker. The complex, multifaceted US voting system is rife with technological weak spots, from problems with the electronic voting machines in use in some states to vulnerabilities in the websites government officials use to disseminate information. In an era where public trust in American institutions is at an ebb, and conspiracy theories threaten to metastasize online, public safety officials and cybersecurity experts say they have to be careful how they talk about the vulnerabilities. “If the people do not trust that it’s a fair system, then the whole thing is going to fall apart,” said Cris Thomas, a well-known hacker who often goes by the name “Space Rogue” and now works in security at IBM. … This November, 15 states — none of them in New England — will use at least some electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail, according to the Verified Voting Foundation.
Without a paper record, election officials can’t review the results to ensure that the final count reflects the actual votes cast.
And though most voting machines are not connected to the Internet, some can be accessed remotely by other computers, increasing the chances that somebody could tamper with their software.
What can be done: Jurisdictions can either replace their all-electronic machines or retrofit them to generate a paper trail, according to the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
But researchers cautioned that any piece of electronic voting equipment should have software that is up-to-date, be disconnected from the Internet and other computers, and be regularly tested for vulnerabilities.