According to a new report from the Commonwealth Security and Risk Management for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, our democracy could be at risk from hackers both in and outside the United States. The report comes as the federal government tries to get a grasp on how much personnel information was lost to Chinese hackers earlier this year.
The report says that voting machines in many precincts are outdated and vulnerable to attack. Experts say that the software in some of these machines is so outmoded that a hacker of even rudimentary skill could change the course of an election. Whether or not that has already happened, the experts cannot say.
The report focused only on machines being used in Virginia, but security analysts say that the problems are spread throughout the country. There is no one-size-fits-all voting technology, and the country runs the gamut when it comes to security against fraud. And while no one will definitively say they have evidence of such fraud, the report was only commissioned after one VA precinct reported “unusual activity” with some of the voting machines.
“Security deficiencies were identified in multiple areas, including physical controls, network access, operating system controls, data protection, and the voting tally process,” the report found. “This heightened level of risk has led VITA security staff to conclude that malicious third party could be able to alter votes on these devices. These machines should not remain in service.”
The machines in question have already been taken out of commission in Mississippi and Pennsylvania. They use an obsolete version of Windows that has not seen a security update in more than a decade.
Guarding the Door
As we move into an era where we are more focused than ever on technological solutions, we need to improve our vigilance when it comes to fraud and security. As we’ve seen with hacks that have targeted big banks, retailers, and the federal government, no system is as safe as its owners claim it to be. Those hacks had their own devastating consequences, but they are nothing compared to what might be possible. If a hacking group decided to change the course of a national election, we could find ourselves in scary, unprecedented waters.
Before we address liberal concerns about citizens who are somehow prevented from voting, we need to make sure our electoral process is safe from compromise. An election is not going to hinge on whether or not people so poor that they can’t afford a driver’s license can vote or not. If you’re that hard on your luck, the last thing on your mind is voting. And until we can be sure that our elections are safe from outside tampering, we need to at least make sure that we guard against the fraud that we know about.