Cyber agency: Voting software vulnerable in some states

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FILE - A worker returns voting machines to storage at the Fulton County Election preparation Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Ga. In an advisory sent to state election officials, and obtained by The Associated Press in advance of its expected on Friday, June 3, 2022, the nation’s leading cybersecurity agency says that electronic voting machines from a leading vendor used in at least 16 states have software vulnerabilities. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, or CISA, said there is no evidence the flaws in the Dominion Voting Systems’ equipment have been exploited to alter election results. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

FILE – A worker returns voting equipment to storage at the Fulton County Election preparing Heart Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Ga. In an advisory sent to condition election officials, and received by The Related Press in advance of its predicted on Friday, June 3, 2022, the nation’s leading cybersecurity company claims that electronic voting devices from a leading vendor utilized in at minimum 16 states have software package vulnerabilities. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Company, or CISA, reported there is no evidence the flaws in the Dominion Voting Systems’ products have been exploited to change election results. (AP Image/John Bazemore, File)

AP

Electronic voting machines from a top seller used in at the very least 16 states have program vulnerabilities that go away them susceptible to hacking if unaddressed, the nation’s major cybersecurity agency suggests in an advisory sent to point out election officials.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Company, or CISA, mentioned there is no evidence the flaws in the Dominion Voting Systems’ devices have been exploited to alter election final results. The advisory is centered on testing by a notable computer scientist and specialist witness in a prolonged-functioning lawsuit that is unrelated to fake allegations of a stolen election pushed by former President Donald Trump just after his 2020 election loss.

The advisory, obtained by The Related Push in advance of its envisioned Friday release, information 9 vulnerabilities and suggests protective measures to avert or detect their exploitation. Amid a swirl of misinformation and disinformation about elections, CISA appears to be attempting to wander a line involving not alarming the community and stressing the require for election officials to choose motion.

CISA Govt Director Brandon Wales claimed in a statement that “states’ common election safety treatments would detect exploitation of these vulnerabilities and in quite a few scenarios would prevent tries fully.” Still the advisory appears to be to advise states usually are not performing adequate. It urges prompt mitigation steps, like both continued and improved “defensive steps to minimize the risk of exploitation of these vulnerabilities.” All those steps need to be utilized in advance of each and every election, the advisory suggests, and it really is crystal clear that’s not happening in all of the states that use the machines.

University of Michigan personal computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who wrote the report on which the advisory is primarily based, has very long argued that employing electronic engineering to record votes is harmful simply because personal computers are inherently vulnerable to hacking and so require many safeguards that are not uniformly adopted. He and many other election stability specialists have insisted that making use of hand-marked paper ballots is the most protected process of voting and the only possibility that lets for significant publish-election audits.

“These vulnerabilities, for the most aspect, are not kinds that could be conveniently exploited by an individual who walks in off the road, but they are issues that we must stress could be exploited by advanced attackers, these kinds of as hostile country states, or by election insiders, and they would have pretty serious effects,” Halderman advised the AP.

The potential for meddling by election insiders has been illustrated by Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in Colorado, who has become a hero to election conspiracy theorists. Information from the county’s voting equipment appeared on election conspiracy websites very last summertime shortly following Peters appeared at a symposium about the election arranged by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. She has been indicted and was a short while ago barred from operating for secretary of condition.

Halderman found that an attacker with physical or community accessibility could achieve handle of the voting equipment and put in destructive code that could alter results. That involves accessing the election management program to modify information just before they’re uploaded to voting devices or forging playing cards that are made use of by specialists, voters and poll employees to attain unauthorized obtain to the equipment.

“Attackers could then mark ballots inconsistently with voters’ intent, change recorded votes or even identify voters’ magic formula ballots,” Halderman stated.

Halderman is an professional witness for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit at first filed in 2017 that specific the out-of-date voting machines Georgia utilized at the time. The condition acquired the Dominion technique in 2019, but the plaintiffs contend that the new process is also unsecure. A 25,000-term report detailing Halderman’s conclusions was submitted less than seal in federal court docket in Atlanta past July.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, who’s overseeing the scenario, has expressed problem about releasing the report, stressing about the opportunity for hacking and the misuse of sensitive election system facts. She agreed in February that the report could be shared with CISA, which promised to operate with Halderman and Dominion to review probable vulnerabilities and then enable jurisdictions that use the equipment to examination and implement any protections.

Halderman agrees that there’s no proof the vulnerabilities were exploited in the 2020 election. But that was not his mission, he explained. He was seeking for ways Dominion’s Democracy Suite ImageCast X voting system could be compromised. The touchscreen voting equipment can be configured as ballot-marking gadgets that develop a paper ballot or report votes electronically.

In a assertion, Dominion defended the machines as “accurate and secure.”

Dominion’s techniques have been unjustifiably maligned by people pushing the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Incorrect and in some cases outrageous promises by superior-profile Trump allies prompted the firm to file defamation lawsuits. Condition and federal officials have frequently stated there’s no evidence of prevalent fraud in the 2020 election — and no proof that Dominion equipment was manipulated to change success.

Halderman said it is an “unfortunate coincidence” that the to start with vulnerabilities in polling place devices reported to CISA influence Dominion equipment.

“There are systemic difficulties with the way election equipment is produced, tested and licensed, and I think it’s a lot more very likely than not that severe challenges would be uncovered in machines from other sellers if they had been subjected to the same type of screening,” Halderman mentioned.

The CISA advisory specially advises against employing the machines as they are configured in Ga, the place a printed paper ballot contains both equally a barcode and a human-readable list reflecting the voter’s picks, and votes are tallied by a scanner that reads the barcode.

“When barcodes are applied to tabulate votes, they may be topic to assaults exploiting the stated vulnerabilities this kind of that the barcode is inconsistent with the human-readable part of the paper ballot,” the advisory suggests. It suggests that the voting machines should be configured, if probable, to create “traditional, entire-experience ballots” relatively than summary ballots that use a barcode.

The influenced equipment are made use of by at the very least some voters in at the very least 16 states, and in most of these spots they are employed only for folks who are unable to physically fill out a paper ballot by hand, in accordance to a voting tools tracker managed by watchdog Verified Voting. But in some states, together with Ga, practically all in-particular person voting is on the impacted devices.

Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling claimed the CISA advisory and a separate report commissioned by Dominion recognize that “existing procedural safeguards make it extremely unlikely” that a lousy actor could exploit the vulnerabilities determined by Halderman. He known as Halderman’s claims “exaggerated.”

Dominion has instructed CISA that the vulnerabilities have been tackled in subsequent software program versions, and the advisory says election officials need to speak to the corporation to identify which updates are desired. Halderman tested equipment made use of in Georgia, and he claimed it’s not clear whether equipment worki
ng other variations of the program share the exact vulnerabilities.

Halderman claimed that as considerably as he appreciates, “no a person but Dominion has experienced the possibility to exam their asserted fixes.”

To reduce or detect the exploitation of these vulnerabilities, the advisory’s recommendations contain making sure voting devices are secure and safeguarded at all situations conducting demanding pre- and submit-election tests on the equipment as properly as article-election audits and encouraging voters to validate the human-readable portion on printed ballots.



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