Hackers can breach air-gapped voting machines and vote tallying systems – those not connected to internet – in an attempt to alter ballots to sway the outcome of an election, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has learned. “Our election infrastructure is not as distant from the internet as it may seem,” Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor, testified Wednesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence The Senate panel, as well as its House counterpart, held simultaneous hearings focused on the impact of Russian hacking on America’s election process (see Election Systems’ Hacks Far Greater Than First Realized ). At both sessions, lawmakers heard witnesses agree that Russian hackers did not alter votes in the 2016 presidential election.
“To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results,” Jeh Johnson, who served as homeland security secretary during last year’s election, told the House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence. Officials from DHS, FBI and state governments testifying at the Senate hearing agreed that no ballots were changed in last year’s election.
… At that Senate hearing, Halderman tried to dispel the notion that voting and vote tallying systems that are not connected to the internet cannot be hacked by actors – such as the Russians – interested in changing votes.
“Attacking the IT systems of vendors and municipalities could put the Russians in a position to sabotage equipment on election day, causing voting machines or electronic poll books to fail, resulting in long lines or other disruptions,” he said. “The Russians could even have engineered this chaos to have a partisan effect, by targeting localities that lean heavily towards one candidate or another.”