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Is E-Voting Secure Enough?

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 16:04 -- Rachel Cunningham

If the upcoming US election was hacked or sabotaged, would we even know it happened? This year, in parts of over 10 states voters will ‘e-vote’ using touch screen voting machines with no paper back up. Tech critics and citizens alike are worried that the electronic voting machines could undermine the election. Here are some of the risks bothering security experts going into this election week.

With malware & ransomeware attacks the highest they have ever been in recent history, our electronic voting machines are at high risk for one of these attacks. If malware is inserted into these machines and it is smart enough to rewrite itself, votes can be erased or assigned to another candidate with little possibility of figuring out the actual vote.

If a DDoS attack on a network of polling machines were to occur, an entire group of voters may have to relocate or find another polling place to vote and critics are saying that if something like that happened there would be a large percentage of people who would just give up and not end up voting. The reduction in votes caused by an attack could make a huge impact on the result of the election, especially if these attacks were focused on specific locations that are predominately one party supporters.

If the voting machine firmware doesn't match what the vendor supplied, "it's like you burned all the ballots," said Daniel Lopresti, a professor and chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. "We have no way to confirm that we can really trust the output from the machine," he said.

The IT and security practices around voting, aggregation and registration systems may vary considerably from state to state and county to county. This gives attackers options and opportunity.

The result of these attacks may or may not be to effect the outcome of the election, as much as to create mistrust in the system. The federal government is involved in election security; after the attack, to investigate breaches, but does not have a preventive role. You don’t want people to lose faith in the outcome of the election, but these issues haven’t been addressed in depth.

However, you should still vote. The only way your vote for sure doesn’t count is if you don’t cast one. 


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