Elections security experts say that it is too late to do much to protect our voting systems against tampering for the midterms. The Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to spur ballot integrity upgrades are focused on 2020, but being future-minded is only an illusion: The hackers will always be ahead. When you’re talking about a set of processes as varied as how different states and districts vote—whether they still use outdated and vulnerable machines that leave no paper trail, or store their registration data insecurely online—there’s really no way to either prevent—or detect—ballot interference with anything like absolute certainty. Russians allegedly hacked Illinois and Arizona’s voter databases mere months before the 2016 presidential election. When DHS first detected these attacks it was too late to prevent them, only soon enough to seal up the vulnerabilities. Except that, even if elections officials had wanted to secure their online voter registration rolls in response to the attack, the law wouldn’t have let them.
Neil Jenkins, who was then director in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at DHS, witnessed intrusions into these states’ voter registration databases underway that summer. He saw what was happening, but there was only so much he could do. “If we had given advice to state and local election officials to take your voter registration database offline because they are susceptible to attack,” Jenkins says, “that’s not advice that election officials could use.” States that allow online registration are legally required to keep their databases online, he explained, so that people can continue to register.
… And the current federal guidelines don’t even address voter registration systems. Existing oversight of these systems, according to veteran elections security scholar and University of Iowa computer science professor Douglas W. Jones, is “extraordinarily weak.” The guidelines currently in place, he said, “are written without reference to how the machinery is actually used. This is like requiring a lock on the door without discussing who has the keys or whether the door should actually be shut.”
Jones sees recent progress, however, in that elections officials have begun heeding warnings like his. Many have “moved beyond denial,” he says. But “this does not mean that they are taking effective action.”
Full Article: Mega Millions is Safer than Our Election System.