From Chinese technology to hacking, electronic voting machines rife with concerns

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USA- Despite Democrats and their media sycophants downplaying the possibility of fraud in this month’s presidential election, numerous alarm bells were raised well ahead of time of possible issues with the technology being utilized in some states which could lead to the issues we are currently seeing.

As this video from 2016 shows, it was a concern back then as well:

 

As far back as last January, there were warnings about electronic voting machines.

On Jan. 10, 2020, NBC News said that despite assurances that voting machines were “not connected to the Internet,” cybersecurity experts claimed at the time that was not necessarily true.

Going back to 2017, then-Acting Undersecretary for Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security said exactly that, while testifying before Congress.

At the time, that Undersecretary, Jeanette Manfra was responsible for the security of the nation’s voting system.

In fact, Manfra wasn’t the only government official who made the claim that voting machines weren’t connected to the Internet. NBC reported at the time that numerous government officials had made the same claims, which led a majority of Americans to believe that was indeed the case.

The thought of course is that if voting machines are not connected online, they are not subject to being compromised.

However, NBC said that a team of 10 independent cybersecurity experts who specialize in such systems disagreed with that assessment. They noted that while the machines themselves are not configured to be online, most larger voting systems in many states end up being there, which puts the voting process at risk.

The experts said that in the summer of 2019, they found that some systems were found to be online.

“We found over 35 [voting systems] had been left online and we’re still continuing to find more,” said Kevin Skoglund, a senior technical advisor at national Election Defense Coalition, an election security advocacy group to NBC.

“We keep hearing from election officials that voting machines were never on the Internet,” he said.

“And we know that wasn’t true. And so we set out to try and find the voting machines to see if we could find them on the internet, and especially the back-end systems that voting machines in the precinct were connecting to to report their results.”

Skoglund and his group developed a system which checked the internet to see if the central computers that program voting machines and run the entire election process at the precinct level were online.

After identifying those systems, the relevant election officials were notified, and they also passed the information on to a reporter, Kim Zetter who published the information in Vice’s Motherboard last August.

All three of the largest voting machine manufacturing companies—Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic—all acknowledged that they put modems in some of their tabulators and scanners.

They explained that this was done so unofficial election results can be transmitted more quickly to the public. Apparently just like the news media, being the first is more important than being accurate, or more specifically implementing security protocols.

In the case of ES&S, they said their systems are protected by firewalls and are not on the “public internet.” However, Skoglund and Andrew Appel, a Princeton computer science professor and an expert on elections, said that such firewalls can and have been breached.

“AT&T and Verizon and so on try and protect as best they can the security of their phone network from the rest of the internet, but it’s still part of the internet,” Appel explained. “There can still be security holes that allow hackers to get into the phone network.”

The 35 systems found by Skoglund’s team likely, NBC News said, were only a fraction of the total voting systems nationwide, however Skoglund believed he only captured a portion of the systems that may have been online.

Also, Skoglund showed NBC that even after officials in three jurisdictions were notified that their systems were online and vulnerable, on the week of the NBC interview those systems were still online.

Appel said that election systems being online even if only for a short time presents a problem.

“Once a hacker starts talking to the voting machine through the modem, the hacker cannot just change these unofficial election results, they can hack the software in the voting machine and make it cheat in the future,” he said.

Skoglund said that ES&S confirmed they had sold scanners with wireless modems to at least 11 seats, including both Michigan and Wisconsin.

ES&S told NBC News that 14,000 of their DS200 tabulators with online modems were in use around the country at the time NBC spoke to them.

Meanwhile around the same time, Bloomberg Law reported that concern was expressed long ago about Chinese infiltration into election voting equipment, which was actually raised as a concern among voting machine vendors.

On Jan. 9, 2020, executives from the three vendors named above—Hart InterCivic, Dominion Voting Systems and Election Systems & Software—told the House Administration Committee that they were looking for guidance from the Department of Homeland Security on how to secure their subcontractors.

At the time, committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) noted that the hearing was the first time all three CEOs agreed under oath that they would support regulations from the government.

The three told lawmakers that they had “no choice” but to use components made in China because there were no USA-made equivalents.

“Do you see why that concerns all of us up here?” said ranking member Rodney Davis (R-Ill).

“Absolutely,” all three CEOs said.

Dominion CEO John Poulos said he was hoping for supply-chain guidance to be written into new voluntary standards for voting machines being developed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Finally, on November 2, Yahoo Finance reported that concerns had been raised about technology which ranged from voting machines to results website which could “easily disrupt voting or sow doubts about the income.”

In fact, one of the battleground states that has been at the center of the election controversy over the past week, Georgia, used touchscreen voting machines for the first time this election cycle.  

Likewise, in yet another state where voting has turned into a cluster, Pennsylvania, new voting machines experienced malfunctions last year. In order to rectify that issue, the machines were reconfigured to speed up the counting of ballots, apparently in such a way as to not permit voters to hold the ballots in their hands.

Yet another issue is servers that store voter data, and which post unofficial results were identified as being vulnerable to temporary outages.

“Any kind of disinformation about election-related technology, even if there is no hack, is cause for concern, because to be effective, all that is required is for the public to perceive a problem—whether real or not,” according to Eddie Perez, director of technology development and open standards at the Open Source Election Technology Institute, an election technology advocacy organization.

In the leadup to the election, officials were concerned about a lack of faith in the voting systems, a fear that has been realized after numerous issues have been raised after the election, where President Trump held large leads on Election Night, only to see those leads evaporate in the early morning hours while people were sleeping.

Where Georgia is concerned, the state used to use paperless machines which did not offer a backup or way to reliably recount votes in questionable or close elections.

However, the new machines which replaced them has also raised concerns. The new machines, also referred to as ballot-marking devices are basically touchscreen computers which produce a paper, bar-coded ballot.

According to security researchers, errors or tampering could render the bar codes differently from what was selected by the voter, which makes them less secure than paper ballots marked by hand.

These types of devices are typically used for Americans with disabilities, since many of those voters cannot hold pens or are unable to read small text on paper ballots. In the case of Georgia, however, they chose to deploy them for all voters no matter what the need.

While Georgia election officials downplay the risk of hacking or malfunctions, cybersecurity experts disagree.

Appel, as well as Richard DeMillo of Georgia Tech and Philip Stark of the University of California Berkeley said, “There is no way to deter, contain, or correct computer hacking in BMDs” [ballot marking devices]. These are the essential security flaws of BMDs.”

Aside from hacking, the machines are also “prone to glitches, configuration errors and other malfunctions,” especially due to the relative inexperience poll workers have with the machines.

Georgia found that out last June in their primary when some machines failed to boot up, with poll workers having problems activating them and then polling places ran out of provisional ballots which serve as a backup for voters.

Precinct workers reported at the time that they’d received minimal training with little or no technical troubleshooting for the new machines.

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Yahoo Finance also identified the other trouble spot—Pennsylvania.

After 2018, the state replaced its paperless machines statewide. Most counties in the state purchased ballot-marking devices with voters with disabilities, with paper ballots intended for everyone else. Other counties bought electronic BMDs as Georgia had done.

However, some counties which went the BMD route configured their BMDs in what is referred to as “tabulator mode,” which tallies votes inside the machine instead of giving out a paper ballot for voters to bring to a scanner.

It was reported that eight of the state’s 67 counties planned to use their machines in such a mode, according to the nonprofit group Verified Voting.

One of those counties included—wait for it—Philadelphia. That city experienced problems in 2019, where machines suffered frozen touchscreens and jammed printers. Yet more problems occurred in Northampton County, where configuration errors had machines record zero votes for one 2019 candidate.

Tabulator mode does generate paper printouts, but once voters review them, they get sent to built in scanners. They also have what is referred to as an “auto-cast” feature, where voters can cast their ballots and send them to the built-in scanner without first reviewing the printout.

This feature has been criticized by security experts, and Pennsylvania requires counties to disable it, however there is no guarantee that every county and precinct will follow those instructions.

With that feature enabled, a defective or compromised device could miscast votes even if they are properly displayed on the summary screen.

Likewise, even with the auto-cast feature off, the use of tabulator mode leaves the system ripe for abuse, including security fears and false alarms.

Matt Blaze, a Georgetown University professor, argues that putting devices in tabulator mode is a bad idea, while adding that doing so puts more trust in the machines than should be given.

“It’s a really bad idea to configure ballot marking devices in tabulator mode,” Blaze said.

Voting machines were not the only vulnerability during the election. So-called “electronic poll books” have replaced paper binders in many jurisdictions to check voter eligibility.

They are basically just tablet computers connected to the internet, which of course makes them vulnerable to hacking. They are also susceptible to crashes, as happened in Durham County, N.C. in 2016.

“If those fail, no one can check in to vote, and [they] can’t vote except by provisional ballots,” Blaze said. “And again, while they don’t affect the integrity of the tally of the votes that got cast, that can still affect the outcome of the election of people weren’t able to vote in the first place.”

Yahoo Finance also noted the vulnerability of websites states and counties use to report unofficial results, noting they are wide open in comparison to voter databases.

These websites often lack the type of protection and dedicated IT support, which makes them vulnerable to hacking, noting that could be a problem in closely contested jurisdictions.

Finally, the computers used by election workers were also identified as subject to cyberattack. Yahoo noted that some of those machines were used to program voting machines and e-poll books to manage the election process. There was not federal oversight of those computers’ security, and oversight varies state to state.

Finally, experts admitted that there would likely be some technological problems or hacking attempts on Election Day:

“The question is whether officials will be able to both handle these technical challenges and reassure voters that their ballots will count.”

Prophetic.

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