CIA Agent: Electronic Voting Risky

Update 5/7/2009 Boston Progressive Examiner: Electronic voting machines in U.S. at risk from foreign hackers attacking military computers <read>

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission should be paying attention to what has been happening at the Department of Defense. America is under cyber attack each day with thousands of attacks on defense websites. As computer technology spreads in election offices around the country the risk of foreign hacking of American elections grows.

Update 4/8/2009 Wall Street Journal: Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies <read>

Last year, a senior Central Intelligence Agency official, Tom Donahue, told a meeting of utility company representatives in New Orleans that a cyberattack had taken out power equipment in multiple regions outside the U.S. The outage was followed with extortion demands, he said…

The sophistication of the U.S. intrusions — which extend beyond electric to other key infrastructure systems — suggests that China and Russia are mainly responsible, according to intelligence officials and cybersecurity specialists. While terrorist groups could develop the ability to penetrate U.S. infrastructure, they don’t appear to have yet mounted attacks, these officials say.

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McClatchy:  Most electronic voting isn’t secure, CIA expert says<read>

“You heard the old adage ‘follow the money,’ ” Stigall said, according to a transcript of his hour-long presentation that McClatchy obtained. “I follow the vote. And wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that’s an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to . . . make bad things happen.”

Stigall said that voting equipment connected to the Internet could be hacked, and machines that weren’t connected could be compromised wirelessly. Eleven U.S. states have banned or limited wireless capability in voting equipment, but Stigall said that election officials didn’t always know it when wireless cards were embedded in their machines.

While Stigall said that he wasn’t speaking for the CIA and wouldn’t address U.S. voting systems, his presentation appeared to undercut calls by some U.S. politicians to shift to Internet balloting, at least for military personnel and other American citizens living overseas. Stigall said that most Web-based ballot systems had proved to be insecure.

We agree with the agent that electronic voting can be compromised, but some details in the testimony are questionable.

Appearing last month before a U.S. Election Assistance Commission field hearing in Orlando, Fla., a CIA cybersecurity expert suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his allies fixed a 2004 election recount, an assertion that could further roil U.S. relations with the Latin leader.

Both a Princeton/Johns Hopkins study and the Carter Center have studied the Venezuelan election and refute some of these contentions in that particular case.

PRINCETON, N.J. — An analysis of polling data from the Aug. 15 referendum in Venezuela to recall President Hugo Chávez indicates that certain forms of computer fraud were unlikely to have occurred during the electronic voting process, according to a study by computer science researchers from Johns Hopkins and Princeton universities.

Jennifer McCoy directed the Carter Center’s observer mission in Venezuela and is a Latin America expert at Georgia State University in Atlanta:

In conclusion, the vote itself was secret and free, but the CNE’s lack of openness, last-minute changes and internal divisions harmed public confidence in that vital institution both before and after the vote. Divisive rhetoric and intimidating tactics from Chavistas, and the opposition’s still-unsubstantiated claims of fraud, have exacerbated Venezuelans’ cynicism toward elections. It will take a huge effort by both sides to restore trust in this fundamental democratic right before next month’s election for governors and mayors.

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