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National: Voting on Your Phone: New Elections App Ignites Security Debate | Matthew Rosenberg/The New York Times

For more than a decade, it has been an elusive dream for election officials: a smartphone app that would let swaths of voters cast their ballots from their living rooms. It has also been a nightmare for cyberexperts, who argue that no technology is secure enough to trust with the very basis of American democracy. The debate, long a sideshow at academic conferences and state election offices, is now taking on new urgency. A start-up called Voatz says it has developed an app that would allow users to vote securely from anywhere in the world — the electoral version of a moonshot. Thousands are set to use the app in this year’s elections, a small but growing experiment that could pave the way for a wider acceptance of mobile voting. But where optimists see a more engaged electorate, critics are warning that the move is dangerously irresponsible. In a new report shared with The New York Times ahead of its publication on Thursday, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the app is so riddled with security issues that no one should be using it.

Full Article: Voting on Your Phone: New Elections App Ignites Security Debate - The New York Times.

National: MIT researchers identify security vulnerabilities in voting app | Abby Abazorius/MIT News

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using internet and mobile technology to increase access to the voting process. At the same time, computer security experts caution that paper ballots are the only secure means of voting. Now, MIT researchers are raising another concern: They say they have uncovered security vulnerabilities in a mobile voting application that was used during the 2018 midterm elections in West Virginia. Their security analysis of the application, called Voatz, pinpoints a number of weaknesses, including the opportunity for hackers to alter, stop, or expose how an individual user has voted. Additionally, the researchers found that Voatz’s use of a third-party vendor for voter identification and verification poses potential privacy issues for users.

Full Article: MIT researchers identify security vulnerabilities in voting app | MIT News.

National: Iowa’s app fiasco worries mobile voting advocates | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

The fiasco caused by an app that failed to properly transmit votes in the Iowa caucuses is worrying the mobile voting industry, which hoped 2020 would be a banner year. Companies — and proponents of incorporating more technology into elections — are trying to avoid being lumped in with the hastily made app used in Iowa. They’re saying its failure proves serious investment in user-friendly, secure election technology is more critical than ever. “We need to ensure that every new idea is tested, transparent and secure — just like the eight successful mobile voting pilots conducted to date,” Bradley Tusk, the founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies, said in a statement. “Enough is enough. 2016 should have been enough of a wake-up call. Iowa just confirmed it.” Tusk Philanthropies has funded pilots for mobile voting across the country, launched in a push to increase participation in elections. Unlike the app used in Iowa, which was developed to relay vote counts, the pilots use technologies that allow voters to easily vote from their mobile phones. So far, the pilots have largely been limited to eligible uniformed and overseas voters and voters with disabilities. But any expansion is sure to fall under an even more critical spotlight. Any malfunction — or hack — of an app used directly for voting in 2020 could have far greater impact in undermining public faith in the Democratic process than one Democratic caucus gone wrong.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Iowa's app fiasco worries mobile voting advocates - The Washington Post.

Washington: Seattle-area election will use smartphone voting system that worries some experts | Jay Greene /The Washington Post

As it became clear that a technical mishap would delay results from the Iowa caucuses last week, Sheila Nix raced to prepare a chart illustrating how the glitch was isolated. Nix is president of Tusk Philanthropies, an organization that’s working to boost turnout through mobile-voting projects and was not involved in the Iowa caucuses. But she has been working on a Seattle-area election that culminates Tuesday to elect a seat on the board of the King Conservation District, which promotes sustainable uses of natural resources. It is one of Tusk’s most high-profile efforts. Nix didn’t want the Iowa debacle to discourage potential voters from using their mobile phones to cast their ballots. The chart Nix’s team created, posted on the King Conservation District’s website, noted that the technology used in Iowa, unlike Tusk’s partners, was “untested, and created in secrecy,” and that Iowa didn’t have a backup plan in the event there was a problem. But she said she also recognizes that the fiasco in Iowa was a setback for everyone working on digital elections. “We know we have an additional level of education that must be done,” Nix said. ‘It kind of failed us’: With eyes of the world on Iowa, another hiccup in American democracy.

Full Article: Seattle-area election will use smartphone voting system that worries some experts - The Washington Post.

Washington: We voted with a smartphone in a Seattle-area election, and this is what we discovered | Monica Nickelsburg/GeekWire

Mobile voting is fast, convenient, and vulnerable. Those were my takeaways testing out the mobile voting pilot available to all voters in the greater Seattle region Tuesday. More than 1.2 million Seattle-area voters have the option to cast their ballots online in a little-known election for the Board of Supervisors of the King Conservation District, a resource-management organization operating under state authority. To cast my ballot online, I visited the King Conservation District website on my smartphone. The first page explained my options for voting, including casting my ballot online. It also included an infographic detailing how this mobile voting pilot is different from the app that malfunctioned during the Iowa Democratic caucuses last week. Clicking “Vote Now” led to a series of prompts within the web browser on my phone. First I reviewed the sample ballot provided. Then it was time for the main event. … The speed and convenience of mobile voting is undeniable. … But there will always be folks who sit small, local elections out. My husband, for example, probably won’t vote in this one. Could that become an opportunity for fraud? I decided to find out.

Full Article: We voted with a smartphone in a Seattle-area election, and this is what we discovered – GeekWire.

Washington: ‘Proceed very cautiously’: Experts say online elections raise security concerns | Amy Radil/KUOW

Voting online is now an option for certain voters in King, Pierce, and Mason counties. But Washington state lawmakers and security experts say these methods should be “off the table” in 2020. Tuesday, February 11 is the last day for voters in the King Conservation District election to submit their online ballots. The election made headlines last month as the country’s first in which all eligible voters cast ballots via smartphones and computers. Pierce and Mason counties plan to use the same method to allow military and overseas voters to cast ballots in the presidential primary. But the failure of the app at the Iowa caucuses last Monday has inflamed doubts around online voting. Even before then, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and cybersecurity experts condemned online balloting calling for the exclusive use of paper ballots this year. Should Washington voters worry about online voting? …Computer scientist Jeremy Epstein has a much different perspective than Tusk. He argues the platforms Tusk has funded through two firms, Voatz and Democracy Live, are not transparent. “Both Voatz and Democracy Live have talked about, ‘Oh yes we’ve had security assessments,’” said Epstein, who works for the Association for Computing Machinery. “But they won’t release any information on what they’ve tested, what the results are. They just said, ‘don’t worry, be happy.’” Epstein said there are no standards for secure internet voting because it is “fundamentally insecure. ” He add that “we don’t want to build standards for ‘safe cigarettes,’” and “we don’t build standards for ‘safe’ internet voting because it’s a contradiction in terms.”

Full Article: KUOW - 'Proceed very cautiously': Experts say WA online elections raise security concerns.

National: Iowa Caucus chaos likely to set back mobile voting | Lucas Mearian/Computerworld

A coding flaw and lack of sufficient testing of an application to record votes in Monday’s Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus will likely hurt the advancement and uptake of online voting. While there have been hundreds of tests of mobile and online voting platforms in recent years – mostly in small municipal or corporate shareholder and university student elections – online voting technology has yet to be tested for widespread use by the general public in a national election. “This is one of the cases where we narrowly dodged a bullet,” said Jeremy Epstein, vice chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s US Technology Policy Committee (USTPC). “The Iowa Democratic Party had planned to allow voters to vote in the caucus using their phones; if this sort of meltdown had happened with actual votes, it would have been an actual disaster. In this case, it’s just delayed results and egg on the face of the people who built and purchased the technology.” The vote tallying app used Monday in the Iowa Caucus was created by a small Washington-based vendor called Shadow Inc.; the app was funded in part by a nonprofit progressive digital strategy firm named Acronym. Today, Acronyn strived to make it clear through a tweet it did not supply the technology for the Iowa Caucus, and it is no more than an investor.

Full Article: Iowa Caucus chaos likely to set back mobile voting | Computerworld.

Washington: Voting by Phone Gets a Big Test, but There Are Concerns | Emily S. Rueb/The New York Times

More than a million registered voters in the Seattle area can now cast a ballot for an obscure election using a smartphone or computer. Organizers are calling the pilot program the largest mobile voting effort in the country. Julie Wise, the director of elections in King County, said the election would be “a key step in moving toward electronic access” for voters across the region, in a statement released on Wednesday from Tusk Philanthropies, the nonprofit partnering with the county’s board of elections. The vote in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, will fill an open spot on the board of the King Conservation District, an agency that manages natural resources. Beginning this week, eligible voters will be able to use a smartphone or computer to log into a portal created by Democracy Live, a Seattle-based company that receives government funding. “There’s no special app, there’s no electronic storage of votes. Instead a voter’s choice is recorded onto a PDF, which they then verify before submission,” Ms. Wise said in an email on Thursday. Once the ballots are received, the board will follow the same processing protocols that are used for mail-in ballots, she added.

Full Article: Voting by Phone Gets a Big Test, but There Are Concerns - The New York Times.