- Voting News
Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots | J. Alex Halderman
You may have read at NYMag that I’ve been in discussions with the Clinton campaign about whether it might wish to seek recounts in critical states. That article, which includes somebody else’s description of my views, incorrectly describes the reasons manually checking ballots is an essential security safeguard (and includes some incorrect numbers, to boot). Let me set the record straight about what I and other leading election security experts have actually been saying to the campaign and everyone else who’s willing to listen.
How might a foreign government hack America’s voting machines to change the outcome of a presidential election? Here’s one possible scenario. First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker’s work might leave no visible signs — though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.
Could anyone be brazen enough to try such an attack? A few years ago, I might have said that sounds like science fiction, but 2016 has seen unprecedented cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the election. This summer, attackers broke into the email system of the Democratic National Committee and, separately, into the email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and leaked private messages. Attackers infiltrated the voter registration systems of two states, Illinois and Arizona, and stole voter data. And there’s evidence that hackers attempted to breach election offices in several other states.
In all these cases, Federal agencies publicly asserted that senior officials in the Russian government commissioned these attacks. Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections. In 2014, during the presidential election in Ukraine, attackers linked to Russia sabotaged the country’s vote-counting infrastructure and, according to published reports, Ukrainian officials succeeded only at the last minute in defusing vote-stealing malware that was primed to cause the wrong winner to be announced. Russia is not the only country with the ability to pull off such an attack on American systems — most of the world’s military powers now have sophisticated cyberwarfare capabilities. Read More
Verified Voting provides resources that allow you to find what voting equipment is used in each State, how the equipment works and laws and regulations in place across the country to promote transparent and verifiable elections. Click below to visit The Verifier interactive map, and our pages devoted to Voting Equipment, Post-Election Audits and Internet Voting.
Verified Voting’s mission is safeguarding elections in the digital age. As a non-partisan organization working for accuracy, integrity and verifiability of elections, we work to ensure that the voice of those who understand technology are at the table when decisions about the use of technology in elections are being made. Verified Voting consists of two entities: VerifiedVoting.org and the Verified Voting Foundation. Click below to learn more.
In July 2012, the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and the Rutgers University Law School released Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Election Preparedness that reviews how prepared each state is to ensure that every eligible voter can vote, and that every vote is counted as cast. Does your State require paper ballots or records of every state? Does your State have contingency plans in the event of machine failure? Does your State protect military and overseas voters by ensuring that marked ballots are not cast online? Has your State instituted a post-election audit? Does your State use robust ballot reconciliation and tabulation practices? See how your State ranks.
There is widespread pressure around the country today for the introduction of some form of Internet voting in public elections that would allow people to vote online, all electronically, from their own personal computers or mobile devices. Proponents argue that Internet voting would offer greater speed and convenience, particularly for overseas and military voters and, in fact, any voters allowed to vote that way. However, computer and network security experts are virtually unanimous in pointing out that online voting is an exceedingly dangerous threat to the integrity of U.S. elections. There is no way to guarantee that the security, privacy, and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any practical technology in the foreseeable future. Find out more at our Internet Voting Resource Page.