The country’s voting machines are susceptible to hacking, which could be done in a way so that it leaves no fingerprints, making it impossible to know whether the outcome was changed, computer experts told President Trump’s voter integrity commission Tuesday. The testimony marked a departure for the commission, which was formed to look into fraud and barriers to voting, but which heard that a potentially greater threat to confidence in American elections is the chance for enemy actors to meddle. “There’s no perfect security; there’s only degrees of insecurity,” said Ronald Rivest, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said hackers have myriad ways of attacking voting machines. “You don’t want to rest the election of the president on, ‘Maybe the Wi-Fi was turned on when it shouldn’t have been.’” He and two other computer security experts said bar codes on ballots and smartphones in voting locations could give hackers a chance to rewrite results in ways that couldn’t be traceable, short of sampling of ballots or hand recounts — and those work only in cases where there’s a paper trail.
Andrew Appel, a professor at Princeton University, said it would be easy to write a program that cheats on election results and deletes evidence of the hack as soon as the results are reported.
The analysts didn’t point to any specific election that they knew had been compromised, but they said hackers likely would leave fingerprints only if they wanted to be spotted and hurt confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
“To ignore the fact that the computers are completely hackable and to try to run elections, as some states do, where they entirely rely on the word of a computer program on who won is entirely irresponsible,” Mr. Appel said.
The revelations stunned members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was in New Hampshire on Tuesday for its second meeting. “I’m sufficiently shaken,” said Ken Blackwell, a commissioner and former secretary of state in Ohio.