National

Russians not the only threat to our elections

Many articles on the Congressional hearings on the “Russian” hacking or not hacking of our elections.  Brad Friedman and Mark Karlin come closet to my opinions:

Recent article by Mark Karlin referencing Brad Friedman:  Beyond the Russians, Electronic Voting Machines Are Vulnerable to Any Hackers  

Journalists and activists have been sounding the alarm about electronic voting machines and their proprietary software for years. The vulnerability of these machines to hacking has not been front and center for some time — primarily due to the failure of the corporate media and legislative bodies to take it seriously. That changed, to some extent, with the charges about Russian hacking from US intelligence agencies. However, the current emphasis is on the Russians allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 election, not on the flawed electronic voting machines that make hacking possible…

Meanwhile, our Secretary of the State continues to spread myths about the safety of voting systems not connected to the internet and “tamper-proof” seals that are at best “tamper-evident”. 

We add that paper ballots are insufficient.  They need protection from tampering.  We need sufficient audits and recounts.  Audits and recounts that are comprehensive and convincing.  Audits and recounts that are transparent and publicly verifiable.f

Hacking voting systems is/was easy

Article in the Atlantic summarizes some of the bad news from the last couple of weeks:  There’s No Way to Know How Compromised U.S. Elections Are <read>

So let us not be complacent. Just because you do not understand something, does not mean that hundreds and thousands of others can’t easily hack it.

If [Connecticut] Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?

NPR story by Pam Fessler:  If Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?   Fessler quotes several experts and election officials including Connecticut Assistant Secretary of the State Peggy Reeves:

Still, Connecticut Election Director Peggy Reeves told a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel on Monday that many local election officials are ill-equipped to handle cybersecurity threats.

“Many of our towns actually have no local IT support,” she said. “Seriously, they don’t have an IT director in their town. They might have a consultant that they call on if they have an issue. So they look to us, but we’re a pretty small division.”

Reeves said the best protection against hackers is probably the fact that the nation’s voting system isso decentralized, with different processes and equipment used in thousands of different locations.

We certainly agree with that and the cybersecurity experts quoted.

Amid Charges Russia Hacked U.S. Election, Keith Alexander Encourages eVoting for Canada

Former NSA Chief and now CEO cyber security contractor says Canada needs more cyber security, cyber weapons,  and should deploy electronic voting:  Don’t let cyberattack threat deter Canada from online voting, says former head of NSA

foreign interference that may have influenced the U.S. election should not deter Canada and other countries from embracing online voting, says the former head of the U.S. National Security Agency.

Retired U.S. general Keith Alexander, speaking at a defence industry trade show in Ottawa, also said it is important the Canadian military have some kind of offensive cyber capacity, even if that ability is limited.

There is no going back to a manual voting system, Alexander said in an interview with CBC News following his remarks to defence contractors, in which he warned that both government and private sector networks are vulnerable to a rising tide of “destructive” cyberattacks…

The U.S. experience is something to learn from, he said, but it should not make countries like Canada leery of e-voting.

The United States should make ballots verifiable—or go back to paper.

Article in The Atlantic: The Case for Standardized and Secure Voting Technology 

It’s time to fix the voting process.

American voting systems have improved in recent years, but they collectively remain a giant mess. Voting is controlled by states, and typically administered by counties and local governments. Voting laws differ depending on where you are. Voting machines vary, too; there’s no standard system for the nation.

Accountability is a crapshoot. In some jurisdictions, voters use machines that create electronic tallies with no “paper trail”—that is, no tangible evidence whatsoever that the voter’s choices were honored. A “recount” in such places means asking the machine whether it was right the first time.

We need to fix all of this.

Denise Merrill mostly right on Trump voting witch hunt commission

 

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill , said,“The rationale for this commission was articulated in a baseless tweet from the president that claimed millions of illegal votes were cast. The facts don’t lie. Voter fraud is extremely rare. Yet time and again, the specter of voter fraud has served as an excuse to disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible voters. I hope that this investigation is not a fig leaf for voter suppression and intimidation. In Connecticut, we will protect every eligible person’s right to vote. I stand by our process and our elections officials.”

This reminds us of the Bush era witch hunt in the Justice Department for voter fraud.  Several attorneys were let go because they could not find or refused to continue hunting for all but non-existent fraud.

We do question Secretary Merrill’s statement that “In Connecticut, we will protect every eligible person’s right to vote. I stand by our process and our elections officials.”

How easy would it be to rig the next election? Very Easy

Article at Think Progress: How easy would it be to rig the next election? 

In the popular imagination, this is what election hacking looks like?—?dramatic, national-scale interference that manually rewrites tallies and hands the victory to the outlier. Certainly these attacks may occur. However, they’re only one of a variety of electoral hacks possible against the United States, at a time when hacking attacks are becoming more accessible to threat-actors and nation-state-sponsored attackers are growing more brazen. Yes, hackers may attempt to change the vote totals for American elections?—?but they can also de-register voters, delete critical data, trip up voting systems to cause long lines at polling stations, and otherwise cultivate deep distrust in the legitimacy of election results. If hackers wish to rig a national election, they can do it by changing only small numbers on a state level.

What can we learn from a jurisdiction in NY that hand-counts every vote?

I recently attended a presentation by Columbia County, NY, Election Commissioner Vivian Martin on the post-election audit/recount performed after every election.  It should be of interest to every citizen concerned with trust in elections and every election official: “You Can’t Count Paper Ballots”  Want to bet?  

After every election (using optical scanners) they count every ballot a second time by hand.  What can we learn in Connecticut, “The Land of Steady Habits?

We are not necessarily convinced that we need to go as far as Columbia County.  Yet, Connecticut needs a much stronger, more comprehensive, transparent audit; we need a stronger more transparent chain-of-custody; a more uniform, higher quality recanvass.  There is no reason, other than “we have always done it this way”, for our current post-election schedule.  We could perform rigorous automatic recounts rather than recanvasses; we need more to declare and perform recounts/recanvasses. We could emulate other states and perform audits shortly after the election, delaying rigorous/adversarial recounts to later and providing weeks for their completion.

Rep. Matt Lesser exploring run for Secretary of the State

The Middletown Press and a Facebook video by Lesser indicate he is exploring a run for Secretary of the State.

To our knowledge Lesser is the 1st candidate officially filing.

Public Voting Machine Hackathon: Challenge or Sham

The worlds largest democracy has offered the public a chance to hack its unverifiable voting machines.  The details are skimpy, history does not provide confidence, and while it may be a step in the right direction it is ultimately insufficient.  See the article by George Washington University Professor Poorvi Vora: Hacking EVMs: The EC has issued a challenge. It must first accept the challenge it faces

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