Electronic Vulnerability

Election News Roundup

Several instructive articles and events this week.

  • Last week, Secretary of the State and President of NASS (National Association of Secretaries of  State) held a press conference discussing Donald Trump’s allegations of 3 Million “Illegals” Voting.  Secretary Merrill Challenges President’s Reported Claims of Illegal Voting
  • Meanwhile, at least, Connecticut is no Kansas: The Kansas Model for Voter-Fraud Bluffing
  • Here an article I generally agree with from Forbes: What The Election Can Teach Us About Cybersecurity
  • Speaking of attacks on voter databases here is a story from this fall: Hackers hit Henry County voter database

Video: The Story of the Attempted Presidential Election Audit

Recount 2016: An Uninvited Security Audit of the U.S. Presidential Election

Also, I’m not sure that we at the University of Michigan could hack into all the paper ballots across multiple states sufficient to change the Presidential election. But I’m pretty sure my undergraduate security course could have changed the outcome of the Presidential election this year. It really is that bad, – Alex Halderman

Connecticut pre-election voting machine testing now less reliable

Over the the last few weeks, we have learned that in the November Election, registrars have substituted a less effective form of pre-election testing that is less likely to catch errors in ballots or election equipment. There are at least two problems

Lessons from the “recount”. What would have happened here?

The Nation, hopefully, learned some lessons about our existing “recounts” after the November Election.  We learned some disappointing lessons in three states.  We likely would have learned similar lessons in the other states that have recounts.  Remember that only about half the states have recounts at all.  What might we have learned about Connecticut’s recanvasses?

We recommend three articles and comment on Connecticut’s recanvasses.

Our best guess is that Connecticut would rank close to Pennsylvania.  Observed variations and poor recanvass procedures, with courts sooner or later. stopping or blocking the recanvass.

An Electoral House of Cards – When votes are not publicly verifiable

An Alternet interview of Jonathan Simon: Something Stinks When Exit Polls and Official Counts Don’t Match – A discussion with an exit poll expert reveals an electoral house of cards. 

When their were claims that exit polls did not match in the Democratic Primary, I said that neither side made the case  saying, “I stand with Carl Sagan who said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Now a very thoughtful interview with Jonathan Simon who outlines the case that we should be concerned about the exit polls and concerned just as much that we cannot verify our elections

Could the election be hacked? Checking a “Fact Checker”

USAToday article: Could the U.S. election be hacked?  <read>

We add some annotations:  [Bottom-line there is a conspiracy in plan view.  A thinly disguised attempt to assure us that elections are not vulnerable and that any attempt to say otherwise is an attack on every pollworker.]

Ballots Still Broken: Doug Jones on Today’s Voting Machines

Broken Ballots co-author, Doug Jones interview on the vulnerabilities of today’s voting machines, the newer models available, risks of Election Management Systems, and Internet voting: Douglas Jones on Today’s Voting Machines  <read>

Fortunately, Connecticut has avoided the problem of corruption of the EMS by using a separate system from programming elections and using a manual reporting system to accumulate the results at the end of the night.  That does not mean our systems are safe from errors, hacking, and fraud.

Of Prisons, Water, and Elections

A story about prisons claimed that officials look at a prison as a jug of water.  Even with a small pinhole leak, the water will get out.  They look for the slightest weakness in the prison, assuming prisoners (with lots of time on their hands, collective wisdom, and little to lose in trying) will find any weakness, no matter how small, difficult, and time consuming.

That is how we should look at voting systems

A Meeting, A Hearing, and Lots of Nonsense

In the last two weeks there was a meeting of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and a hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee on “Cyber and Voting Machine Attacks”.  In total there were seven “experts” giving their opinions along with many of the committee members giving theirs. For the most part, solid facts and reason were missing.  The general plan seemed to be officials going overboard in reassuring the public.

Security Against Election Hacking

From Freedom to Tinker, Andrew Appel: Security against Election Hacking – Part 1: Software Independence <read>

We have heard a lot lately about the vulnerabilities of our elections to hacking.  Both cyberhacking and unsophisticated insider attacks. Andrew Appel describes some common sense approaches to detect and deter error and fraud in our elections, covering three major vulnerabilities:

  • Incorrect or unavailable poolbooks.
  • Voting machines
  • Accumulation of results across polling places and jurisdictions
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