A number of states are blocking web traffic from foreign countries to their voter registration websites, making the process harder for some U.S. citizens who live overseas to vote, despite the practice providing no real security benefits. On its face, the “geo-targeting” of foreign countries may seem like a solid plan: election officials around the country are concerned about foreign interference after Russia’s efforts leading up to the 2016 election, so blocking traffic to election websites from outside the United States might seem like an obvious defense starting point. But cybersecurity experts and voting rights advocates say it’s an ineffective solution that any hacker could easily sidestep using a virtual private network, or VPN, a commonly-used and easily-available service. Such networks allow for a computer user to use the Internet and appear in a different location than they actually are.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist for the Center For Democracy & Technology. “Any concerted attacker would use a VPN, they’re really cheap. If anything, this is just marketing.”
Media reports began circulating over the past two months that states were blocking international traffic to their sites. The Philadelphia Inquirer specifically indicated in a report last week that at least five states were blocking international traffic to their election sites.