Voting software vulnerable in some states

Digital voting devices from a primary vendor utilized in at least 16 states have software vulnerabilities that leave them vulnerable to hacking if unaddressed, the nation’s main cybersecurity company states in an advisory despatched to condition election officials.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Company, or CISA, mentioned there is no proof the flaws in the Dominion Voting Systems’ products have been exploited to alter election outcomes. The advisory is primarily based on tests by a prominent computer scientist and expert witness in a long-functioning lawsuit that is unrelated to wrong allegations of a stolen election pushed by former President Donald Trump immediately after his 2020 election reduction.

The advisory, attained by The Connected Push in progress of its envisioned Friday release, aspects 9 vulnerabilities and implies protecting steps to reduce or detect their exploitation. Amid a swirl of misinformation and disinformation about elections, CISA seems to be hoping to walk a line involving not alarming the community and stressing the need to have for election officials to get action.

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CISA Government Director Brandon Wales mentioned in a statement that “states’ regular election protection treatments would detect exploitation of these vulnerabilities and in a lot of instances would prevent makes an attempt solely.” Yet the advisory appears to be to recommend states are not doing enough. It urges prompt mitigation measures, such as equally continued and enhanced “defensive actions to cut down the threat of exploitation of these vulnerabilities.” Those actions have to have to be used in advance of every election, the advisory suggests, and it is very clear which is not occurring in all of the states that use the equipment.

College of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who wrote the report on which the advisory is centered, has extended argued that using electronic know-how to file votes is dangerous due to the fact desktops are inherently susceptible to hacking and as a result call for several safeguards that are not uniformly adopted. He and lots of other election security gurus have insisted that working with hand-marked paper ballots is the most safe system of voting and the only solution that will allow for meaningful put up-election audits.

“These vulnerabilities, for the most aspect, are not types that could be simply exploited by anyone who walks in off the road, but they are items that we must worry could be exploited by complex attackers, these as hostile nation states, or by election insiders, and they would have quite serious outcomes,” Halderman informed the AP.

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Issues about feasible meddling by election insiders were being not long ago underscored with the indictment of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in Colorado, who has turn out to be a hero to election conspiracy theorists and is managing to come to be her state’s prime election formal. Facts from the county’s voting equipment appeared on election conspiracy sites previous summer season shortly soon after Peters appeared at a symposium about the election structured by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. She was also a short while ago barred from overseeing this year’s election in her county.

A single of the most major vulnerabilities could permit malicious code to be distribute from the election management program to equipment during a jurisdiction, Halderman explained. The vulnerability could be exploited by an individual with actual physical obtain or by an individual who is ready to remotely infect other programs that are connected to the net if election personnel then use USB sticks to carry knowledge from an infected technique into the election administration method.

Many other specifically worrisome vulnerabilities could let an attacker to forge cards applied in the devices by technicians, giving the attacker obtain to a equipment that would allow the software to be adjusted, Halderman said.

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“Attackers could then mark ballots inconsistently with voters’ intent, change recorded votes or even establish voters’ key ballots,” Halderman explained.

Halderman is an specialist witness for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit originally submitted in 2017 that targeted the outdated voting machines Georgia applied at the time. The point out purchased the Dominion technique in 2019, but the plaintiffs contend that the new system is also insecure. A 25,000-term report detailing Halderman’s conclusions was filed beneath seal in federal courtroom in Atlanta very last July.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, who’s overseeing the case, has expressed issue about releasing the report, stressing about the probable for hacking and the misuse of delicate election procedure information. She agreed in February that the report could be shared with CISA, which promised to get the job done with Halderman and Dominion to exa
mine probable vulnerabilities and then aid jurisdictions that use the equipment to exam and implement any protections.

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Halderman agrees that there’s no evidence the vulnerabilities ended up exploited in the 2020 election. But that was not his mission, he mentioned. He was searching for means Dominion’s Democracy Suite ImageCast X voting procedure could be compromised. The touchscreen voting equipment can be configured as ballot-marking equipment that produce a paper ballot or document votes electronically.

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

Dominion’s techniques have been unjustifiably maligned by people pushing the untrue narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Incorrect and sometimes outrageous statements by higher-profile Trump allies prompted the business to file defamation lawsuits. Point out and federal officials have frequently reported there is no proof of widespread fraud in the 2020 election — and no evidence that Dominion machines was manipulated to change outcomes.

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Halderman said it is an “unfortunate coincidence” that the 1st vulnerabilities in polling place tools noted to CISA have an impact on Dominion machines.

“There are systemic challenges with the way election machines is created, examined and licensed, and I think it’s far more possible than not that critical complications would be found in products from other suppliers if they ended up subjected to the very same sort of screening,” Halderman stated.

In Georgia, the equipment print a paper ballot that consists of a barcode — recognized as a QR code — and a human-readable summary checklist reflecting the voter’s alternatives, and the votes are tallied by a scanner that reads the barcode.

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“When barcodes are utilized to tabulate votes, they may well be subject to attacks exploiting the outlined vulnerabilities these types of that the barcode is inconsistent with the human-readable portion of the paper ballot,” the advisory says. To minimize this threat, the advisory endorses, the devices ought to be configured, where feasible, to deliver “traditional, entire-encounter ballots, relatively than summary ballots with QR codes.”

The influenced machines are utilised by at minimum some voters in at least 16 states, and in most of people destinations they are used only for people today who simply cannot physically fill out a paper ballot by hand, in accordance to a voting gear tracker maintained by watchdog Confirmed Voting. But in some spots, including all of Georgia, almost all in-particular person voting is on the influenced equipment.

Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling said the CISA advisory and a independent report commissioned by Dominion identify that “existing procedural safeguards make it incredibly unlikely” that a undesirable actor could exploit the vulnerabilities recognized by Halderman. He called Halderman’s statements “exaggerated.”

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Dominion has advised CISA that the vulnerabilities have been addressed in subsequent software program variations, and the advisory states election officers must contact the enterprise to ascertain which updates are necessary. Halderman analyzed equipment employed in Ga, and he claimed it is not clear whether machines working other versions of the software package share the exact same vulnerabilities.

Halderman mentioned that as far as he knows, “no a person but Dominion has had the prospect to examination their asserted fixes.”

To stop or detect the exploitation of these vulnerabilities, the advisory’s recommendations include making sure voting equipment are secure and shielded at all periods conducting arduous pre- and submit-election testing on the devices as properly as publish-election audits and encouraging voters to confirm the human-readable part on printed ballots.


This story has been corrected to reflect that Tina Peters has been barred from overseeing this year’s election in her county, not from jogging for secretary of condition.

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