The recent DEF CON hackers’ conference in Las Vegas has seen DHS assistant secretary for the office of cybersecurity and communications Jeanette Manfra underline the very real threat of election hacking.
“I yearn for the days when we were just worried about the electric grid going down,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said in addressing the crowd, ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Across the hall at the Vote Hacking Village, white-hat hackers and researchers were teaming up to hack voting machines that are in use across the country to find and fix vulnerabilities before the state-sponsored hackers or other malicious hackers do. For context, all voting machines present in the village were hacked within three hours at last year’s DEF CON.
“Every voting machine in this room is in use in [the] next election [in] 2018,” explained Village co-founder Harri Hursti in comments reported by Mashable. “Every single one, every single model, is a model still in use.”
While it was “really difficult to manipulate the actual vote count itself,” according to Manfra, clogging up the system could fundamentally undermine the election integrity.
She described a scenario on election day wherein registered voters turned up at their allocated polling places to discover that they should vote somewhere else – according to poll workers. In such a scenario wherein provisional ballots are cast, the processes can be duplicated over and again as voters run into hurdles, leading to lines to grow.
DHS’ Manfra called on the crowd to work with the government agency, if not directly for the DHS in a plea for help to stamp out election hacking threats.
[This is the] first time in a national security space the government is not on the front lines.
Image credit: Wikimedia.