AP Exclusive: New election systems use vulnerable software

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pennsylvania’s message was clear: The state was taking a big step to keep its elections from being hacked in 2020. Last April, its top election official told counties they had to update their systems. So far, nearly 60% have taken action, with $14.15 million of mostly federal funds helping counties buy brand-new electoral systems.

But there’s a problem: Many of these new systems still run on old software that will soon be outdated and more vulnerable to hackers.

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Top voting machine maker reverses position on election security, promises paper ballots

Voting machine maker ES&S has said it “will no longer sell” paperless voting machines as the primary device for casting ballots in a jurisdiction.

ES&S chief executive Tom Burt confirmed the news in an op-ed.

TechCrunch understands the decision was made around the time that four senior Democratic lawmakers demanded to know why ES&S, and two other major voting machine makers, were still selling decade-old machines known to contain security flaws.

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New Election Security Bills Face a One-Man Roadblock: Mitch McConnell

Daniel Savickas, who lobbies Congress on election-related issues for the conservative FreedomWorks, blasted the Senate majority leader for letting legislation languish: “Unfortunately, all Senator McConnell wants to do is judges these days,” he said.

FreedomWorks has advocated a more limited federal footprint, but Mr. Savickas said that “there is a role for Congress” to provide money for states to transition to paper ballot backups and to conduct “risk-limiting audits” after elections.

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There’s Bipartisan Support for Election Security. Mitch McConnell Won’t Let It Happen.

Robert Mueller’s first public comments about the Russia investigation Wednesday had everyone from Fox News to the New York Times reporting that House Democrats would now feel increased pressure to begin an impeachment inquiry against the president.

No doubt, the question of whether Donald Trump obstructed justice and should be subject to impeachment is of critical importance to Congress and the nation. But Robert Mueller also began and ended his comments with another issue that he said “deserves the attention of every American.”

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Two and a half years later, DHS still hasn’t performed audits to see if votes were hacked in 2016

It’s almost certain that hostile foreign hackers will try to disrupt and sow confusion around the pivotal U.S. elections in 2020, whether they’re hunkered down in bunkers in Belarus, drab office buildings in the Moscow suburbs, living rooms in Tehran, or warehouses in Beijing. And they’ll bring their A-game.

The question is, How well prepared is the U.S. to counter and contain those attacks?

And the answer is: Be scared, very scared.

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Microsoft offers software tools to secure elections

Microsoft has announced an ambitious effort to make voting secure, verifiable and subject to reliable audits by registering ballots in encrypted form so they can be accurately and independently tracked long after they are cast. Two of the three top U.S elections vendors have expressed interest in potentially incorporating the open-source software into their voting systems.

Three little-known U.S. companies control about 90 percent of the market for election equipment, but have long faced criticism for poor security, antiquated technology and insufficient transparency around their proprietary, black-box voting systems.

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Amicus Brief by Election Security Experts Highlights Major Flaws in South Carolina Election Systems

The National Election Defense Coalition, Free Speech For People, and experts in computer science from around the country filed on Tuesday, April 17, 2019, an amicus brief before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a case concerning the security of election technology in South Carolina. The brief argues that the state’s system is disenfranchising citizens through software errors and remains susceptible to hacking by domestic and foreign actors.

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States slow to spend funds to enhance election security, report finds

New York (CNN) - US states and territories given $380 million in combined federal funds for election upgrades last year only spent 8.1% of that money in the first six months it was available, the agency responsible for distributing the funds said on Thursday.

That money was distributed as part of a 2018 bill, which was passed after Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned it is a "national security concern" that US elections can't be audited with paper ballots.

Security experts have in recent years called for major elections to have a physical paper trail so a trustworthy audit can be performed.

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Experts: Elections commission downplaying unseen risks to 2020 vote

Cybersecurity and election experts say a key federal body that oversees elections is downplaying hidden dangers in voting systems — software and foreign-made parts that adversaries could subvert to hack U.S. elections.

Electronic parts from China or computer components and systems assembled overseas are recognized risks in a range of critical U.S. industries. But election security experts say the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission has given an unmerited rosy view of these problems to lawmakers and the public when it comes to voting machines.

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The Crisis of Election Security

It was mid-July 2016 when Neil Jenkins learned that someone had hacked the Illinois Board of Elections. Jenkins was a director in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, the domestic agency with a congressional mandate to protect “critical infrastructure.” Although election systems were not yet formally designated as such — that wouldn’t happen until January 2017 — it was increasingly clear that the presidential election was becoming a national-security issue. 

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