Bianca Lewis, 11, has many hobbies. She likes Barbie, video games, fencing, singing… and hacking the infrastructure behind the world’s most powerful democracy. “I’m going to try and change the votes for Donald Trump,” she tells me. “I’m going to try to give him less votes. Maybe even delete him off of the whole thing.” Fortunately for the President, Bianca is attacking a replica website, not the real deal. She’s taking part in a competition organised by R00tz Asylum, a non-profit organisation that promotes “hacking for good”. Its aim is to send out a dire warning: the voting systems that will be used across America for the mid-term vote in November are, in many cases, so insecure a young child can learn to hack them with just a few minute’s coaching.
Let’s get the fish in the barrel out of the way. Voatz are a tech startup whose bright idea was to disrupt democracy by having people vote on their phone, and store the votes on, you guessed it, a blockchain. Does this sound like a bad idea? Welp. It turned out that they seemed awfully casual about basic principles of software security, such as not hard-coding your AWS credentials. It turned out that their blockchain was an eight-node Hyperledger install, i.e. one phenomenologically not especially distinguishable from databases secured by passwords. They have been widely and justly chastised for these things. But they aren’t what’s important.
National: Two-Minute Hack Shows How Easy It Is To Gain Admin Access On An Elections Voting Machine | wccftech
Once again at the Defcon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas on Friday, hackers posed how easy it is to break into the election voting machines. At the conference, officials from the US Department of Homeland security were present to learn about the problems of the election security. Seemingly, there’s another two-minute hack which will allow anyone to physically gain admin access on a voting machine. It’s definitely alarming for the forthcoming elections. So let’s dive in to see some more details on the hack and how it is performed. Rachel Tobac shared a video on Twitter, showing how she gained physical admin access in less than two minutes. It required no tools and the operation does not require any hardcore hacking techniques. At this point, with hacking options as easy as this, these attacks threaten trust in politics and even leadership to a greater scale. These loopholes can possibly allow alterations being made to the final count, which of course, does make a lot of difference.
As hackers sit down to break into dozens of voting machines here in Las Vegas this weekend, some state and local election officials that have flown in to witness the spectacle at one of the world’s largest hacking conventions are becoming increasingly concerned about another threat to November’s midterm elections: information warfare. Organizers of a “voting village” at the annual Def Con hacker convention have packed a conference room at Caesars Palace with voting machines and have asked civically-curious hackers to wreak havoc. The event, now in its second year, is supposed to demonstrate vulnerabilities in America’s vast election infrastructure. After a few hours on Friday, one hacker was essentially able to turn a voting machine into a jukebox, making it play music and display animations. While such hacks are a cause of concern for election officials, they are increasingly looking beyond the threats against traditional election infrastructure like voting machines and voting databases and more to the threat of disinformation. What, some of them ask, if they fall victim to a coordinated information warfare campaign?
Hackers at the Defcon computer security conference believe they can help prevent manipulation of U.S. elections. Some election officials and makers of voting machines aren’t so sure. That tension was front and center at Defcon’s second-annual Voting Village, where computer hackers are invited to test the security of commonly used election machines. Organizers see the event as an early test of U.S. election security and a counterpunch to potential outside interference. On the first day of the event, which runs through Sunday, hackers were able to swap out software, uncover network plug-ins that shouldn’t have been left working, and uncover other ways for unauthorized actors to manipulate the vote. These hacks can root out weaknesses in voting machines so that vendors will be pressured to patch flaws and states will upgrade to more secure systems, organizers say. … “You want companies to be building more secure products, but at the same time the public doesn’t necessarily know the full picture,” Ms. Manfra said. “If all you are saying is, ‘Look, even a kid can hack into this’, you’re not getting the full story, which can have the impact of having the average voter not understanding what is going on.”
Def Con, one of the world’s largest security conventions, served as a laboratory for breaking into voting machines on 10 August, extending its efforts to identify potential security flaws in technology that may be used in the November US elections.Hackers will continue to probe the systems over the weekend in a bid to discover new vulnerabilities, which could be turned over to voting machine makers to fix.The three-day Las Vegas-based “Voting Village” also aimed to expose security issues in digital poll books and memory-card readers. “These vulnerabilities that will be identified over the course of the next three days would, in an actual election, cause mass chaos,” said Jake Braun, one of the village’s organizers. “They need to be identified and addressed, regardless of the environment in which they are found.”
Some bathrooms have signs urging people to wash their hands. But at the Democratic National Committee, reminders hanging in the men’s and women’s restrooms address a different kind of hygiene. “Remember: Email is NOT a secure method of communication,” the signs read, “and if you see something odd, say something.” The fliers are a visible symptom of an increased focus on cybersecurity at the DNC, more than two years after hackers linked to the Russian military looted the committee’s computer networks and inflamed the party’s internal divides at the worst possible time for Hillary Clinton. But the painful lessons of 2016 have yet to take hold across the campaign world — which remains the soft underbelly for cyberattacks aimed at disrupting the American political process.
National: Election officials say money, training needed to improve security | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Regional U.S. election officials attending a hacker conference Friday in Las Vegas said they need more money and training to enhance cybersecurity of their election infrastructure. The thousands of local election officers around the U.S. have neither the cyber-knowledge nor resources to stand up to attacks from adversarial nations and need the support of state and federal governments, they said. But they warned that focusing too much on the vulnerabilities could backfire by undermining citizens’ confidence in the system. “There has never been such a spotlight and emphasis (on election hacking) as there has been since 2016. That is our new reality,’’ California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told an audience attending the annual Defcon computer security conference at Caesars Palace. “If it gets into the mind of anybody that maybe my vote isn’t going to matter, so why should I go vote — that is a form of voter suppression,” he said.
This election day, US officials are hoping for a vote of confidence on cybersecurity. Hackers at the Defcon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas on Friday took on voting machines again, after showing how easy it was to break into election machines at last year’s gathering. This time around, officials from the US Department of Homeland Security were on hand to learn directly from hackers who find problems with election security. “We’ve been partners with Defcon for years on a lot of various different issues, so we see a lot of value in doing things like this,” Jeanette Manfra, the DHS’s top cybersecurity official, said at Defcon. In her speech, Manfra invited hackers at Defcon to come find her after to talk more about election security. “We’d love it if you worked for us, we’d love it if you worked with us,” she said.
Four lawmakers on the powerful House Intelligence Committee, including two Republicans, are introducing legislation to help states secure the nation’s digital election infrastructure against cyberattacks following Russian interference in the 2016 election. The bill, which is a companion to a measure in the upper chamber spearheaded by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is a direct response to the effort by Moscow’s hackers to target state websites and other systems involved in the electoral process in the run-up to the 2016 vote. “Although the Russian government didn’t change the outcome of the 2016 election, they certainly interfered with the intention of sowing discord and undermining Americans’ faith in our democratic process,” said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in a statement Friday. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will continue to meddle in our elections this year and in the future.”