This election season, voting machine security is probably not top of mind. After all, 75 percent of votes cast in the United States use paper ballots, and many electronic machines print a ballot to maintain a paper trail. However, according to Pamela Smith, president of election integrity organization Verified Voting, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina use electronic voting machines. If connected to a network, a voting machine could be yet another device that needs to be secured. For instance, hackers could likely intercept signals from an electronic voting machine connected to the network, similar to how hackers could intercept a user’s data when he or she connects to public Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, the FBI issued an alert requesting that states contact their Board of Elections and determine if any suspicious activity had been detected in their logs, following the hacking of two state election boards, one of which resulted in data being stolen. This led to ongoing speculation as to whether tomorrow’s election will be hacked.
The government is a hot target for hackers. The Office of Personnel Management thwarted 10 million confirmed intrusion attempts per month in 2015, and that is just one department of the government. Many organizations assume a data breach will occur at some point, and therefore take a proactive approach to security. It would be wise for the government to adopt a similar mindset.
It is more crucial than ever that everyone, including governments around the world, understand how these connected devices are impacting our everyday lives and shifting how we interact — and even trust — the objects that voters may rely on during election season. When it right comes down to it, the Internet of Things (IoT) is about devices being controlled by software, connected to the internet, armed with sensors for reporting.
When voters enter their assigned polling place tomorrow, they may not consider the vulnerabilities at risk every time they use a connected device, including some electronic voting machines. With internet-connected devices, there will always be a risk from determined hackers that want to exploit vulnerabilities in the device and the applications on the device. It is not just governments that should be concerned.