As Election Day gets closer, one issue looms large for voters and election officials alike: cybersecurity. Hoping to quell fears about foreign hackers and repel potential threats, many states and counties are beefing up their plans to deal with cyberattacks. They’re shoring up systems to protect their voter databases and hiring security experts to assess the strength of their defenses. They’re coordinating with social-media organizations to stamp out deliberately fraudulent messages that could mislead voters about how to cast a ballot. And they’re banding together to share information and simulating how to respond to potential emergencies. One simulation-based exercise, held by the Department of Homeland Security in mid-August, gathered officials from 44 states, the District of Columbia and multiple federal agencies, the DHS says. “There absolutely is more emphasis on contingency planning” since 2016, says J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan.
… Still, some observers worry that there may be a problem with provisional ballots that hackers could try to exploit. Those ballots may take a while to fill out, which could lead to longer lines at polling places, says Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology. Some voters may not be able to wait, or may not be willing to provide personal details on the form, Mr. Hall says.
“Say it’s a hotly contested midterm election” in a small congressional district, says Mr. Hall. If bad actors were to improperly modify the records for, hypothetically, 10% of a bloc of voters, he says, those people might not complete a provisional ballot and leave without voting—which, he worries, theoretically might swing the race to a certain candidate.
Paperless machines—which at least one county in each of 13 states will use for most voters this year, according to the Verified Voting Foundation—were once considered state of the art. But now security experts are recommending paper ballots or machines with paper backups to counteract any potential bad actors who might try to tamper with the machines’ software.
… “You have to have a way of checking that the software has not been hacked and that there’s no errors,” says Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that has long advocated for a “paper trail” of votes.
Full Article: The Cyberthreats That Most Worry Election Officials – WSJ.