National

The System That Won’t Prove It Is Accurate

Jonathan Simon says it so well at Truthout: Between Trump and a Hard Place: The Truth About “Rigged” Elections 

It should be rather obvious that the unidentified insiders charged with the programming, and anyone working through them, enjoy an even greater level of access to the counting process than do foreign hackers targeting our systems from the outside. It should be obvious that this is a colossally stupid risk for our nation to take. And it should be obvious that there is something wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee wrong when those upon whom the public relies for information refuse to seriously address and come clean about that risk…Only a public, observable counting process (i.e., hand-counted paper ballots or uniform public audits with gleaming teeth) can rebuild our shattered faith in the fidelity of our electoral process.

I chose the post title deliberately. “The System” is not computers or pollworkers, but the whole voting system created by people we have put in charge. That system could be changed moderately to provide proof of its accuracy. It is that the system of people won’t recognize and address the problem.

Another Annotation: Don’t stop being concerned about election integrity.

Lately the news is filled with Donald Trump saying the election is rigged and with election officials and others saying that is impossible.  We continue to disagree with both. As we have said:

The truth is that there is no more or less risk to elections this year than in the recent past. The bad news is that the risks of election skullduggery are significant and do not come only from one adversary.

So, lets annotate a recent Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant: Nothing Rigged About American Elections

Secret Ballot and Constitution under assault in Connecticut by AP and Secretary of the State’s Office

One AP story, two different versions in the Connecticut Post and the Hartford Courant.

As we said in our comment on the Connecticut Post article:

Connecticut has this other thing called the Constitution. It is even available at the Secretary’s website. It says: “The right of secret voting shall be preserved.”, which would likely be interpreted as not taking a picture of your ballot such that you could prove how it was voted. Otherwise votes could easily be bought, sold or intimidated. http://www.ct.gov/sots/cwp/view.asp?q=392288

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.

Dr. Harri Hursti addresses the potential for Russian election attacks

Dr. Harri Hursti is a respected international expert on electronic security, especially electronic voting.  In a recent interview he addressed  the risks and chances of correctly attributing the source of attacks, specifically focusing on Russia.

What do you think of the news that a member of Congress says there is “no doubt” that Russia is behind recent attacks on state election systems

The article makes several dangerous assumptions about the security of elections and election systems. Representative Adam Schiff said he doubted (Russians) could falsify a vote tally in a way that effects the election outcome. He also said outdated election systems makes this unlikely, but really, it just makes it easier. The voting machines were designed at a time when security wasn’t considered, included, or part of the specifications at all.

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

Letter: Focus on Russia Takes Heat Off Multitude of Election Vulnerabilities

My letter, published in the Courant today:

Many Election Security Risks

The Sept. 6 article “U.S. Fears Russia Hack” [Page 1] provides an inflammatory view of the risks to U.S. elections. Focusing on one potential risk from our current enemy of choice takes the attention off the multitude of risks…
We can do much better in the long run, if the actual risks are not forgotten after November.

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…

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