Iowa Democratic Party to use risky smartphone method for reporting results

From NPR:  Despite Election Security Fears, Iowa Caucuses Will Use New Smartphone App <read>

Iowa’s Democratic Party plans to use a new Internet-connected smartphone app to help calculate and transmit results during the state’s caucuses next month, Iowa Public Radio and NPR have confirmed.

Party leaders say they decided to opt for that strategy fully aware of three years’ worth of warnings about Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, in which cyberattacks played a central role…

In an interview, Price declined to provide more details about which company or companies designed the app, or about what specific measures have been put in place to guarantee the system’s security.

Cybersecurity experts interviewed by NPR said that the party’s decision to withhold the technical details of its app doesn’t do much to protect the system — and instead makes it hard to have complete confidence in it.

“The idea of security through obscurity is almost always a mistake,” says Doug Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa and a former caucus precinct leader. “Drawing the blinds on the process leaves us, in the public, in a position where we can’t even assess the competence of the people doing something on our behalf.”…

When initial results point to an apparent winner, then the assumption is any other person is trying to overturn the result, rather than insisting that it be accurate.  Remember Gore v. Bush when the Supreme Court was worried that Bush would be harmed by a delay to recount FL?  Or in 2010 when one town in Connecticut erroneously reported thousands of extra votes for candidate Foley for Governor, bringing extra concerns that uncounted votes in Bridgeport might erroneously elect candidate Malloy?

“Once you report something, it’s really hard to undo it, no matter how many retractions you print, no matter how many apologies you say, it’s too late,” Jones says. “From that point of view, someone hacking the reporting process, even though its purpose is entirely informal, not intended to have any permanent importance, is something that could be very disruptive.”


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