Editorials: Online balloting: good intent, bad law | Justin Moore/ Richmond Times-Dispatch

This week the General Assembly has been considering an important election-reform bill that could greatly affect the security of the ballots of our troops and the integrity of elections in Virginia. HB 759 would allow military voters to send marked ballots back over the Internet via email. The bill is intended to address the very real challenges facing military voters, but allowing ballots to be returned over the Internet creates extraordinary risks both to the votes of our men and women in uniform and to the electoral infrastructure of our state. The Internet provides great opportunities, but also tremendous risks. The skill and stealth of hackers continues to outpace our ability to secure Internet-based services. Target, Adobe, Sony, Google, Apple, Facebook, Citigroup and others have all been victims, as have the Department of Defense and the State of South Carolina. Government security experts are raising increasingly urgent warnings regarding computer attacks. The rise of organized, well-funded, state-sponsored hackers has made the cyber world less secure now than ever before. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense’s U.S. Cyber Command, stated that between 2009 between 2011 there was a 1,700 percent increase in computer attacks against American infrastructure initiated by criminal gangs, hackers and other nations. At the direction of Congress, scientists at the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been conducting research into the use of online systems for military voters. NIST has stated that with the security tools currently available, secure online ballot return is not feasible and that more research is needed.