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The Media Can't Get Its Story Straight on Election Hacking

[Image: 2-12-700x470.jpg] Photo credit: Joe Brusky / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
In August, the corporate media was falling all over itself with breathless coverage on how Russia is interfering in the US election. Back then, stories citing experts suggested that voting machines were vulnerable to tampering that could change the outcome of the vote. A month later, something curious happened.
By September, government officials were doing all they could to tamp down those concerns, and the media duly reported their reassurances.
Should the public be comforted that election mischief will be homegrown?
The articles, usually citing active government officials, serve a dual purpose in reassuring the public: First, there is no way Russia can hack the election, despite cyber hacks in the Illinois and Arizona voter registration banks. Meanwhile, the message is also to insist Russian President Vladimir Putin is still giving orders to disrupt US cyberspace. This latter message culminated in the Obama administration publicly blaming the Russian government for trying to influence the election in early October.
Voter System vs Election System

The Washington Post began the trend on August 31 with the definitive headline "There's Almost No Chance Our Elections Can Be Hacked by the Russians. Here's why."
The Post cites two major obstacles for potential (Russian) disruption of our election. One is the difference between the "voter system" and the "election system." The voter system involves registered voter databases throughout the country, while the election system refers to voting machines and paper ballots.
According to executive director Merle King of the state-funded Center for Election Systems in Georgia, the public conflates these two issues about the election, and that leads to a lot of confusion.
The second hindrance for potential hackers is the decentralized voting process, the Post reported. A major positive for vote security, according to the Post, is that local jurisdictions set their own rules for how votes will be counted.
This claim is buttressed by a letter sent by state election officials to Florida voters which notes the public safeguards already in place for our voting process including (1) layers of encryption for voting machines, (2) thumb drive backups of votes, (3) lack of internet connection to voting machines, and (4) a review of votes after an election.
The Los Angeles Times followed on September 8 with a report titled "Could Russian Hackers Mess with the US Election Results? It Wouldn't Be Easy; Here's Why."
The Times also highlights the decentralized nature of the voting system as a safeguard against tampering. However, while the Post viewed the system as sophisticated, the Times saw the state-run and community-monitored systems as too cumbersome to be susceptible to any hacking.
Quoted again is Merle King, along with Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, and FBI Director James Comey. Pamela Smith of Verified Voting an organization that highlights the susceptibility to election rigging is also sourced to reassure readers that the upcoming election is safe, thanks to an uptick in paper ballot usage.
Russia's Goal Not Hacking But Scandal


On September 10, Washington, D.C.-based political newspaper The Hill worked the same dual agenda with "Hacking the Election is Nearly Impossible. But that's not Russia's Goal."
Like the previous articles in the Washington Post and LA Times, The Hill presents the decentralized process of US elections as an impenetrable obstacle to Russian hacking. Bolstering the claims of election security in the piece are Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Colorado's Secretary of Wayne Williams, Pennsylvania Department of State spokesperson Wanda Murren, and Wisconsin's Administrator of State Elections Division Michael Hass. The only non-governmental official quoted is Chris Porter, an administrator of strategic intelligence at cybersecurity firm FireEye Horizons.
Porter cited examples of Russian election tampering in the Ukraine and efforts to "create scandal," despite their inability to hack the election.
The Chicago Tribune got its turn on September 14, quoting Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, who reiterated the safety of the election thanks to the decentralization of the voting process.
These assertions of election security and passive blame on Russia culminated in early October with the Obama administration publicly accusing "senior-most officials in Russia" of tampering with the election, despite their claimed inability to do so.
[Image: 3-10-1024x682.jpg]Voting machine
Photo credit: kafka4prez / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Taking a Screwdriver to the Election


Let's go back to August to see why certain experts said that elections could indeed be tampered with.
Princeton professor Andrew Appel made headlines in August after hacking the Sequoia AVC Advantage electronic voting machine in seven minutes. Such machines are used in Louisiana, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
"[Appel] summoned a graduate student named Alex Halderman, who could pick the machine's lock in seven seconds. Clutching a screwdriver, he deftly wedged out the four ROM chips they weren't soldered into the circuit board, as sense might dictate making it simple to replace them with one of his own: A version of modified firmware that could throw off the machine's results, subtly altering the tally of votes, never to betray a hint to the voter. The attack was concluded in minutes."
Former government officials working in the cyber sphere have also warned of election tampering. Former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke asserted: "Yes, It's Possible to Hack the Election" on August 18.
"I have had three jobs that together [under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama] taught me at least one thing: If it's a computer, it can be hacked."
Special Interests and the Machines

Clarke sees the decentralized election system as the access point for potential tampering rather than a potential safeguard. While there are safeguards, such as the voter tabulation through paper ballots, almost no state exclusively uses paper ballots. Instead, voting machines even allowing votes from home produce no paper ballot record and thus no way to ensure the "correct" vote was cast.
Furthermore, Clark argues paper ballot receipts from the voting machines are only used in the case of a recount something today's sophisticated hackers are aware of and would seek to avoid.
"My first reaction to all this government reassurance was are you kidding me?'" Dr. Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance told WhoWhatWhy. "There is all this concern about outside hacking, but absolutely no talk of internal rigging."
While Simon points out that there are many election safeguards, connections to special interests by those that control voting machines provides easy access to election rigging.
"Anyone who could stand to profit off certain policies the Koch brothers, for example have a better chance of rigging the election due to their connections to voting systems like Dominion, SES and their satellite companies," Simon explained. "Russia, China, nor any terrorist group in the Middle East have a connection like that."
Despite encryption and the lack of an Internet connection, Simon claims that there are other ways to change voting results.
"In a memory card, which is used in optical scanner-verified voting, three lines of code to flip votes one way or another can be entered into 7,000 or 8,000 lines of code virtually without detection. Multiple memory cards can be manipulated like this at the push of a button."

With articles by outside experts in August claiming the election could be hacked, followed in September with articles by government officials claiming it could not be by Russia it raises the question: why overlook domestic tampering?
"These are relatively unsophisticated and simple ways to rig the election," Simon concluded.
America's Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets

America's Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets

[Image: GettyImages-524444620.jpg] A voter uses an electronic voting machine in Philadelphia, April 26 2016. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images This week, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump openly speculated that this election would be "rigged." Last month, Russia decided to take an active role in our election. There's no basis for questioning the results of a vote that's still months away. But the interference and aspersions do merit a fresh look at the woeful state of our outdated, insecure electronic voting machines.
We've previously discussed the sad state of electronic voting machines in America, but it's worth a closer look as we approach election day itself, and within the context of increased cyber-hostilities between the US and Russia. Besides, by now states have had plenty of warning since a damning report by the Brennan Center for Justice about our voting machine vulnerabilities came out last September. Surely matters must have improved since then.
Well, not exactly. In fact, not really at all.

Rise of the Machines

Most people remember the vote-counting debacle of the 2000 election, the dangling chads that resulted in the Supreme Court breaking a Bush-Gore deadlock. What people may not remember is the resulting Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002, which among other objectives worked to phase out the use of the punchcard voting systems that had caused millions of ballots to be tossed.
In many cases, those dated machines were replaced with electronic voting systems. The intentions were pure. The consequences were a technological train wreck.
"People weren't thinking about voting system security or all the additional challenges that come with electronic voting systems," says the Brennan Center's Lawrence Norden. "Moving to electronic voting systems solved a lot of problems, but created a lot of new ones."
The list of those problems is what you'd expect from any computer or, more specifically, any computer that's a decade or older. Most of these machines are running Windows XP, for which Microsoft hasn't released a security patch since April 2014. Though there's no evidence of direct voting machine interference to date, researchers have demonstrated that many of them are susceptible to malware or, equally if not more alarming, a well-timed denial of service attack.
"When people think that people think about doing something major to impact our election results at the voting machine, they think they'd try to switch results," says Norden, referring to potential software tampering. "But you can do a lot less than that and do a lot of damage… If you have machines not working, or working slowly, that could create lots of problems too, preventing people from voting at all."
The extent of vulnerability isn't just hypothetical; late last summer, Virginia decertified thousands of insecure WinVote machines. As one security researcher described it, "anyone within a half mile could have modified every vote, undetected" without "any technical expertise." The vendor had gone out of business years prior.
The WinVote systems are an extreme case, but not an isolated one. Other voting machine models have potentially vulnerable wireless components; Virginia's just the only one where a test proved how bad the situation was.
The worst part about the current state of voting machines is that they don't even require outside interference to undo an election. "They're all computers. They run on tens of thousands of lines of code," says Norden. "It's impossible to have a perfectly secure, perfectly reliable computer."
That's true, but in fairness, most computers aren't quite this imperfect, either.

A Good Kind of Audit

So electronic voting machines aren't ideal. The good news is, it's entirely possible to mitigate any potential harm they might cause, either by malice or mistake.
First, it's important to realize that electronic voting machines aren't as commonplace as one might assume. Three-quarters of the country will vote on a paper ballot this fall, says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a group that promotes best practices at the polls. Only five statesDelaware, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and New Jerseyuse "direct recording electronic" (DRE) machines exclusively. But lots of other states use electronic machines in some capacity. Verified Voting also has a handy map of who votes using what equipment, which lets you drill down both to specific counties and machine brands, so you can see what's in use at your polling station.

More on Voting Machines

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    The Dismal State of America's Decade-Old Voting Machines

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    Virginia Finally Drops America's Worst Voting Machines'

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    Interview: Voting-Machine Hacker Tackles Your Next TSA Pat-Down


More than half of the states conduct post-election auditing, by checking vote totals against paper records, to ensure that the votes are accurate. Both Smith and Norden agree that this sort of auditing is the single best way to guarantee confidence in election results, as does MIT computer scientist Ronald Rivest, who has written extensively [PDF] on voting machine issues.
The problem is that not every state does post-election audits. And even some that require them by law, namely Pennsylvania and Kentucky, don't actually use voter-verifiable paper trails, meaning they have no way to complete an audit. And progress toward more and better auditing is slow; Maryland just put an auditable system in place this year, Smith says, and will pilot it during the fall election. Over a dozen states still have no audit procedure at all.
The problem with putting these auditing systems in place is the same one keeping more reliable voting machines from the booths in the first place: a lack of money and political will. There's new voting equipment out there that's much more secure than the machines states purchased in bulk a decade or more ago, but only a handful of states and municipalitiesRhode Island, DC, and parts of Wisconsin among themhave upgraded in the past year.
"The money's not there right now," says Norden. "We interviewed election officials who told us what they were hearing from their state legislators and others who would be funding this type of equipment, and they say come back to us after there's some kind of crisis."
Which, if they wait long enough, is exactly what they're going to get.

Rigging the Vote

For what it's worth, electronic voting machines have been this hackable in previous elections as well, and there's no indicationeven in Virginiathat there's ever been any interference.
This year feels different though, in no small measure because of Russia's alleged responsibility for the DNC hack. If Putin would go so far as release those emails, would he pursue a direct assault on our vulnerable voting machines as well?
The short answer? Nyet.
"Putin's not very nice, but he's not stupid," says Ryan Maness, a visiting fellow at Northeastern University who specializes in international cyber conflict and Russian foreign policy. "If they were going to mess with the voting machines and the vote-counting software, they wouldn't have done the DNC hack."
Maness argues that the DNC hack and subsequent email release has put a spotlight on Russia. The blowback from such direct interference in a United States election would be too severe. Besides, Maness says, Putin's main objective was likely to embarrass Hillary Clinton, rather than elevate Trump. And he's certainly achieved that much already.
But even if Maness is wrong, the even better news is that the three states that will likely decide the electionFlorida, Ohio, and Pennsylvaniahave voting machines that are in relatively good shape. Florida has an audit requirement in place, while Ohio not only conducts audits, Smith says, it has an "automatic recount provision," where close races trigger a manual recount without requiring a candidate to request one. "Pennsylvania is of the most concern" among those three, says Smith, "based on the fact they have so many paperless DREs in use." Even there, though, election officials will actively deploy paper ballots in the event that those machines fail.
Still, unlikelihood that Russia would tamper with our voting machines hasn't lifted the sense of unease around the election. When Donald Trump suggests the election might be "rigged," he's referring to a host of potential disruptions, from the times and dates of scheduled debates to whatever else he might bend to his narrative. In November, should he lose, he'll find the voting machines to be an easy target.
That suspicion is the real danger of electronic voting systems, and especially of those that can't be easily or effectively audited. If you can't guarantee that there was no tamperingwhich not every state canit might not matter if any actually took place. In the wrong hands, the doubt itself is damaging enough.

Evidence of Electronic Vote Fraud Pours In from Both Liberal and Conservative Sources

Posted on November 6, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog

Rampant Evidence of Electronic Vote Tampering

Ron Paul supporters, progressives and the mainstream media have all discussed the potential for vote fraud.
A global internet voting company headquartered in Spain recently purchased America's dominant election results reporting company.
The Wall Street Journal wrote in a 2008 article entitled "Will This Election Be Stolen?":
And then there are the e-voting machines. Since early voting started recently, worried voters have reported seeing their votes flipped from Barack Obama to Mr. McCain in West Virginia and Texas.
Princeton University scientists showed how easy it is to steal elections by tampering with Diebold voting machines:

We reported in 2006:
The non-partisan and highly-respected government agency, the Government Accountability Office, verified that the electronic voting machines used in 2004 were wide open to fraud, and that fraud likely occured in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and other states.
The security flaws in electronic voting machines are so complete that anyone can instantaneously install software which will change the vote counts. See this New York Times' Magazine analysis, and also E-Voting Machine an Easy Hack from Wired Magazine.
Exit polling data shows that there was vote fraud.
And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and leading reporter Greg Palast have shown that the emperor's cronies intentionally spoiled, rejected, purged and otherwise refused to count enough ballots to take the election away from Kerry (not that I like Kerry). See also this article.
And spend 10 minutes at this website and you'll realize that electronic vote fraud is not some raving conspiracy theory, but is real.
Indeed, the following headlines from the last two weeks hint at the magnitude of the fraud:
In this 2012 election, reports of electronic vote fraud are now pouring in from both liberal and conservative sources:

(Source; Update)"Experimental" software patches on Ohio voting machines may sway the vote.
And Steve Watson notes:
Multiple reports of electronic voting machine irregularities have begun to pour in from all over the country as Americans take to the polls today.
Voters in Hamilton County Indianapolis were forced to wait for 30 minutes to begin voting because the machines were not working when the polling station opened.
The AP reports that "cards used to clear tallies from machines before voting begins were improperly programmed," meaning that around 500 machines had to be "reset".
The Toledo Blade reports that some 100 voters were unable to cast ballots this morning in Bedford, Ohio, because a voting machine was not working. Officials said that a memory card had to be replaced. Long lines led to people walking away.
In Dubuque, Iowa, more voters were delayed when machines failed to operate for around 45 minutes after the polling station opened.
Reports from across North Carolina, one of the key swing states, are pouring in suggesting that voting machines are flipping votes from one candidate to the other.
In Greensboro, "a voter complained that they tried to vote for Mitt Romney three times but that the ballot cast was instead for Barack Obama. Other voters in Guilford County and in some other parts of the state said they experienced similar issues."
In Charlotte, another voter reported the same problem.
In Rehoboth, Massachusetts problems with voting machines were also noted. The machines officials are using are 14 years old, according to the report. Problems were also reported in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.
In Milford Township, Pennsylvania, three voting machines stopped working after just one hour of voting. After a technician got them working again, one of them broke down a second time, causing waiting voters to begin discussing their distrust of the machines and the potential for voter fraud.
In Crawford County, problems with machines were also reported. They had not been set to the correct time, so were unable to be used for a short period of time.
In Missouri, the Secretary of State's office has been forced to respond after numerous voters claimed that machines were flipping votes for Romney to votes for Obama.
In Pittsburgh, voters have reported multiple problems with voting machines.
In Sandy Springs, Georgia, hundreds of people were delayed when voting machines went down at around 11 a.m.
In Nashville, Tennessee, technical issues with the machines were reported by many voters, while in Chattanooga, machines malfunctioned, meaning some voters had to put their ballots in the machine without them being scanned.
In Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, hundreds of voters were turned away as all of the electronic voting machines at one polling station failed to operate. Polling workers only had 50 paper ballots available. Worse still, some voters who used the machines were told that their votes would not count if they had placed them before 8am.
In Spartanburg County, South Carolina, voting machines have failed to work all day and election officials have twice run out of paper ballots.
In Faulkner County, Arkansas, machines were reported inoperable.
Some areas in Virginia reported voting machine problems.
Voters in California have complained that voting machines switched their votes for Obama to Romney.
Last week this same problem was reported in six other states.
In Ohio, a lawsuit has been filed following the installation of software into voting machines by the state that experts say could allow "back door" vote manipulation by non-election board officials.
Green Party candidate Robert J. Fitrakis filed papers yesterday in federal court in Columbus, seeking an order blocking the use of the machines and the software in vote counting. Named as defendants in the case are Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Omaha, Nebraska- based Election Systems & Software Inc.
As we have routinely reported during elections, electronic voting machines have caused significant problems. Many security experts are adamant that the machines can easily be hacked, and past cases have shown that vote fraud has been facilitated by the use of electronic voting machines.
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Early voting began here yesterday. I could barely park at the Hays County Court parking lot- a huge lot- due to all the voters. Later Erick was at a grocery store where we vote early but he said the lines were extremely long. Given that there is so much dislike of both candidates this is a strange turn of events.
Can you vote in the grocery stores over there?
We keep to government schools and town halls for the most part. Nothing commercial that I ever remember.
Events of the last 24 hours are surely signs of attempts at influencing the Presidential elections. It seems that some inside of the FBI chose 11 days before the election to re-open their investigation on Clinton's emails in order to help Trump; and someone has on the same day announced that Brazil's government is now looking into Trump dirty business dealings in that country to help Clinton. This election has been a very low brow election and I would expect the next days will see all kinds of similar attempts. I also think that voter suppression [those not allowed to vote who should be allowed to - and those who vote but who's votes are NOT counted or counted improperly] will be higher this year than since just after the end of slavery. The wide use of electronic voting machines [all of the companies are owned and operated by far rightwing companies!!!] to cheat the election will be widely used. Lastly, not reported by the US MSM, but the international body that monitors elections, including those of the USA, has already issued an opinion that Trump's call for his supporters to come to the polls with their guns and 'monitor' the polls is an attempt at voter suppression of Clinton supporters and likely to have a chilling effect on them. The USA now is just another banana republic, but without any bananas.