A top Department of Homeland Security official said on Tuesday that while it would be difficult for hackers to meaningfully change vote totals in the upcoming elections, they could attack more vulnerable voter registration files, which an expert said could sow “chaos” on Election Day. “Our assessment is that it would be exceedingly complex to change vote totals, and that in trying to attempt to do so [it’s] likely that something would be noticed,” DHS’s National Risk Management Center Director Robert Kolasky said in a Senate hearing. “Voter registration files we’ve assessed as more of a vulnerability than the actual vote count process.”
Though cybersecurity researchers have long sounded the alarm about potential vulnerabilities in the voting machines themselves, Kolasky said one reason the machines are less vulnerable to cyberattacks is that physical security around them has been “greatly enhanced subsequent to the 2016 election.” The machines are not typically connected to the internet.
Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, told ABC News that the government’s worry over voter registration is well-founded because a breach could lead not only to the pilfering of personal information about voters, but could alter the voting tallies indirectly by depressing turnout at voting stations.