National

Highly Recommended: Hacking Elections Is Easy!

From the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology: Hacking Elections Is Easy <read>. It is the most layperson accessible comprehensive overview of the problems we face protecting our elections that I have seen in a long time.  It is 23 pages yet very readable.  The main points are:

  • We face multiple risks our elections:  Registration systems, voting systems, reporting systems, and ballot security.
  • We face risks from multiple actors: Nations with interests in manipulating our elections, corporations, U.S. Government agencies, sophisticated hackers, and insiders at all levels.
  • For the unsophisticated, Hacking Is Easy.  There are simple insider attacks, simple cyber attacks, and kits on the Internet to compromise results or simply disrupt elections.
  • Most election officials are of high integrity.  Yet, blind trust in all officials, machines, and that hacking is difficult is perhaps our greatest risk.

Just a couple excerpts from the Introduction:

To hack an election, the adversary does not need to exploit a national network of election technology. By focusing on the machines in swing regions of swing states, an election can be hacked without drawing considerable notice. Voter machines, technically, are so riddled with vulnerabilities that even an upstart script kiddie could wreak havoc on a regional election, a hacktivist group could easily exploit a state election, an APT could effortlessly exploit a national election and any corrupt element with nothing more than the ability to describe the desired outcome could order layers of exploits on any of the multitude of deep web forums and marketplaces. Yes, hacking elections is easy…

If Russia hacked the DNC? What me worry?

Did Russia hack the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary’s Campaign.  And does it only matter who the hackers are?

With little disclosed evidence, the prime story has been the question of who hacked the sites.  That is an important aspect of the news, yet there are other important issues obscured, perhaps intentionally by the focus on that one aspect of the hacks.

Skeptics Guide Part 2: Absence of Evidence is Not Evidence of Absence

A couple of weeks ago, based on claims that exit polls showed that the primary was stolen from Bernie Sanders, I said: “I stand with Carl Sagan who said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Now we have the reverse situation from the NYTimes: Exit Polls, and Why the Primary Was Not Stolen From Bernie Sanders <read>

I seems like a pretty good case that the exit polls do not prove  the election was stolen.

Unfortunately, the Times headline is incorrect.  This evidence in this article only claims  that the exit polls do not prove that Bernie won. There is no proof that the official results are correct.  They may be, they may not be.  We still need Evidence Based Elections, providing strong evidence that the results are correct.

Book Review: Down for the Count

Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America
by Andrew Gumbel.  An updated version of Gumbel’s earlier Steal This Vote.  A lot has happened in 12 years!

I highly recommend, for an overview of the history of voting issues in the United States.. I can add a small caveat the to the description on Amazon:

Down for the Count explores the tawdry history of elections in the United States—a chronicle of votes bought, stolen, suppressed, lost, miscounted, thrown into rivers, and litigated up to the U.S. Supreme Court—and uses it to explain why we are now experiencing the biggest backslide in voting rights in more than a century…

Why Online Voting is a Danger to Democracy

An article by David Dill, founder of Verified Voting, from Stanford University: Why Online Voting is a Danger to Democracy

How could we be fooled?

Suppose masses of emails get sent out to naive users saying the voting website has been changed and, after you submit your ballot and your credentials to the fake website, it helpfully votes for you, but changes some of the votes. You also have bots where millions of individual machines are controlled by a single person who uses them to send out spam…

How bad could it be?…

If they fear Internet privacy and security, why would they vote that way?

A new government survey highlights the consequences of Internet insecurity.  From the Washington Post: Why a staggering number of Americans have stopped using the Internet the way they used to <read>

Nearly one in two Internet users say privacy and security concerns have now stopped them from doing basic things online — such as posting to social networks, expressing opinions in forums or even buying things from websites, according to a new government survey released Friday…

The research suggests some consumers are reaching a tipping point where they feel they can no longer trust using the Internet for everyday activities…

Bloomberg Businessweek: A Decade Hacking Elections

From Bloomberg Businessweek: How to Hack an Election: <read>

Rendón, says Sepúlveda, saw that hackers could be completely integrated into a modern political operation, running attack ads, researching the opposition, and finding ways to suppress a foe’s turnout. As for Sepúlveda, his insight was to understand that voters trusted what they thought were spontaneous expressions of real people on social media more than they did experts on television and in newspapers. He knew that accounts could be faked and social media trends fabricated, all relatively cheaply. He wrote a software program, now called Social Media Predator, to manage and direct a virtual army of fake Twitter accounts
“Having a phone hacked by the opposition is not a novelty. When I work on a campaign, the assumption is that everything I talk about on the phone will be heard by the opponents.”

We note that similar issues have been raised in our current primary season. With charges and verifications that Twitter followers of at least one candidate appear to be largely fake accounts, along with unverified accusations that campaigns and their databases have been infiltrated, web access disrupted at critical times.  Given the current state of web  security, we see no reason that the same has, is, and will go on in our U.S. Elections.

It is best to be skeptical of anything you read in any media.  On the campaign trail assume the video is always on and every keystroke is captured by the opposition, media, and Government.  As always authenticity makes life simpler.

Arizona should not go away.

Certainly the officials in Arizona would like the interest in what happened in the primary to wane. It should not.  Democracy deserves better than this.

It is typically a high bar to re-run an election, maybe too high.  Typically you need to prove that enough voters would have been disenfranchised to change the result.  Sometimes as far as proving they would have voted for the looser.  Arizona’s Democratic Primary is near that bar.  In fact, if we consider the number of votes that would have awarded one more and one less delegate to either campaign its not that high a bar compared to the disenfranchisement.

Here is a video of the 5.5 hours of hearings. And comments from a Connecticut advocate.

Editorial: We didn’t “Fix this” or was it Fixed? We all lose anyway.

After the long lines in some states in 2012, President Obama said “We Have To Fix That“. Four years and a Presidential Commission later, it seems, at least Arizona is going the wrong way.

The results, entirely predictable, were endless lines akin to those that await the release of new iPhones.

We say:

  • Any disenfranchisement, disenfranchises every voter in the United States.  Our vote and democracy is distorted by the disenfranchisement of others.  We could have a different President and different party in power next January based on a distorted result.
  • Even if there was no disenfranchisement, (unlikely from what we see at this point), our democracy suffers from the lack of credibility unless the issues are investigated and effectively fully resolved.

 

Apple vs. the Government: Security and Privacy overlap

Apple is right to object to the government’s request to help open an iPhone.  Many claim it is an issue of balance between Security and Privacy. Perhaps. Yet, the Constitution talks of the the right of the people to be Secure in their effects.

To all those voices discussing this issue, we add:

  • Cracking “just one phone” and destroying the program thereafter is a myth…

While we applaud Apple’s efforts to make it impossible to crack new iPhones, such claims, in our view, are mythical.

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