We've heard a lot from Donald Trump about voter fraud, but very little this cycle about the security of our voting systems and whether they're hackable by foreign interests.
According to a POLITICO article in August, security experts are definitely concerned.
This week, the notion has been transformed from an implausible plotline in a Philip K. Dick novel into a deadly serious threat, outlined in detail by a raft of government security officials. “This isn’t a crazy hypothetical anymore,” says Dan Wallach, one of the Felten-Appel alums and now a computer science professor at Rice. “Once you bring nation states’ cyber activity into the game?” He snorts with pity. “These machines, they barely work in a friendly environment.”
The powers that be seem duly convinced. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently conceded the “longer-term investments we need to make in the cybersecurity of our election process.” A statement by 31 security luminaries at the Aspen Institute issued a public statement: “Our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments and terrorist groups.” Declared Wired: “America’s Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets.”
Robert Kennedy, Jr. is concerned enough that he has written to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking specifically that heightened scrutiny be paid to procedures implemented by states, including making sure the machines and tabulators are not connected in any way to the Internet.
Kennedy specifically cited Russian interference in Ukranian elections and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's previous work for them in his specific concerns. (The full letter is embedded below).
Perhaps most concerning is the backhanded way such interference might occur:
The Princeton group has no shortage of things that keep them up at night. Among possible targets, foreign hackers could attack the state and county computers that aggregate the precinct totals on election night—machines that are technically supposed to remain non-networked, but that Appel thinks are likely connected to the Internet, even accidentally, from time to time. They could attack digitized voter registration databases—an increasingly utilized tool, especially in Ohio, where their problems are mounting—erasing voters’ names from the polls (a measure that would either cause voters to walk away, or overload the provisional ballot system). They could infect software at the point of development, writing malicious ballot definition files that companies distribute, or do the same on a software patch. They could FedEx false software to a county clerk’s office and, with the right letterhead and convincing cover letter, get it installed. If a county clerk has the wrong laptop connected to the Internet at the wrong time, that could be a wide enough entry window for an attack.
“No county clerk anywhere in the United States has the ability to defend themselves against advanced persistent threats,” Wallach tells me, using the parlance of industry for highly motivated hackers who “lay low and stick around for a while.” Wallach painted an unseemly picture, in which a seasoned cyber warrior overseas squared off against a septuagenarian volunteer. “In the same way,” continues Wallach, “you would not expect your local police department to be able to repel a foreign military power.”
The solution to all of this is paper ballots, as Brad Friedman has been preaching for years now. Paper ballots, counted before witnesses. But until we get to that point, it's definitely worth keeping an eye out and reporting any possible issues immediately.
This year, more than ever, concerns are heightened because of Russia's previous interference via the hacked emails leaked to Wikileaks. It's not unthinkable, so be vigilant.