Voter Registration Time Bomb

Posted on September 29, 2016 by


entities-riskIn August the FBI discovered attempted hacks of the voter registration system in the states of Illinois and Arizona. In the case of Illinois, the hackers took personal data on voters and in Arizona, there were software bugs put on the voter registration system. Since then the FBI has determined that there have been more attempts than what they thought and that the suspected hackers are , perhaps, Russian. James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, said that “there’s a tradition in Russia of interfering with elections, their own and others.”

The FBI bulletin does not attribute the two attacks to any particular group, although Yahoo News traces a few pieces of evidence that link the attack to Russia. Certain methods used in the hack overlap with previous attacks linked to Russia, and at least one IP address used in the hack had surfaced previously in cybercrime forums.

James Comey, the FBI Director, admitted at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, that there have been scans and attempted hacks but no successful hacks; no information exchange.

Clearly, a manipulation of the voting system would be a disaster for our free elections. It would cost money, time and the trust of the American people. However, the voter registration system is separate from the voting system. This will be an important distinction, even now, with the voting public. Is the sensational reporting harmful already to the voting turnout? Reports of hacking of the voter registration database in addition to the DNC Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seem alarming. Carbon Black, a cybersecurity firm, conducted an online survey of registered voters to determine the effect of the hacking. The result of the study shows that the fears about cybersecurity and vote tampering may keep one in five voters home on election day.

“If someone with a keyboard and mouse can literally create this doubt in the process itself, that’s a tremendous amount of power over a country like ours,” said Carbon Black chief security strategist Ben Johnson.

The information to disperse to the voting public is that the voter registration system is different than the voting system. The voting system itself is “clunky and dispersed”, according to FBI Director James Comey, making it hard to hack into. The voting,system , now, is not connected to the internet.  People should also know that these “Hacking attempts are also not a a cause for panic.Voting registrations databases have always bee appealing targets for hackers, who can use the personal information for financial crime.”

The fact that the hacking,  most likely, is for financial gain or for the effect of changing the election, will be largely lost on the voting public unless it is widely reported to them. The area of concern is not the primary hacking into the Voter Registration system, but the effect on the voter turnout if people don’t understand the scope of the hacking and the intent to mess with the election; not by changing votes electronically but by casting the shadow of doubt on the proceedings. If the public believes there is a possibility of changing the votes during the election, they may stay home and not vote.

The U.S. government is not sure whether Russia, which is said to have interfered in U.S. elections since the 1960s, aims to influence the outcome of the election or try to sow seeds of doubt about the sanctity of the process, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper recently told The Washington Post in an interview.

The really horrendous part of this is that the voting public, if not made to feel secure about the non-threat of the hacking, could think that the election is rigged or corrupt and ask for a re-count. Even taking it a step further, Donald Trump could claim the election is rigged and demand a recount. This would throw the election system into a tail -spin and would be a worst case scenario. The voting system should be ultimately secured and protected for the peace of mind of the voting public.

The sanctity of the voting process is the essence of any democracy. Great care should be taken to protect data at every level of the process so that all citizens have the confidence that a fair election has occurred and that the voice of the people has been heard.

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