Cybersecurity Expert Warns Online Voting “Immature”

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  • Dale Eisman

DHS Cybersecurity Expert Warns Online Voting “Immature,” Not Ready for Real Elections

Comments Come as 33 States Allow Some Form of Internet Voting for 2012 Elections

SANTA FE, NM: A senior cybersecurity advisor at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned election officials and experts today that online voting programs make U.S. elections vulnerable to cyberattacks. At present, 33 states allow completed ballots to be sent over the Internet, mostly by email and efax, and primarily for military and overseas voters.

At a meeting of the Election Verification Network (EVN) in Santa Fe, New Mexico Bruce McConnell, senior cybersecurity advisor at DHS stated, “[i]t is premature to deploy Internet voting in real elections at this time.” Mr. McConnell stressed that all voting systems are vulnerable to attack and the introduction of the Internet to voting systems invites even greater risks that is our election systems cannot sustain. Mr. McConnell added that current Internet voting technology is “immature” and “under-resourced.” Audio of Mr. McConnell’s full remarks is posted here.

Mr. McConnell’s remarks are the latest in the ongoing debate around online elections. Many computer security experts say secure Internet voting is decades away, but some elections stakeholders and voting system vendors have pursued email, digital fax and online elections platforms for military, overseas and absentee voters with an aim to deploy online voting for all citizens.

“Election officials who run and pursue online voting programs must understand that they are putting voters’ ballots at risk of being altered or deleted without anyone realizing it,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s Voting Integrity Project. “Online banking systems have extremely robust security systems, but those are routinely hacked, costing millions. Banks write these losses off as a cost of doing business and expect to lose money. Do we want to expect to lose ballots?”

“Banking systems are different than online voting systems because consumers can reconcile their bank statements. Because we vote by secret ballot there is no way to confirm that a digital ballot cast over the Internet is received as it was sent, making detection difficult if not impossible,” Goodman said.

Common Cause is a member of the Election Verification Network, which is hosting a conference that featured Mr. McConnell. EVN is a national network of experts, election officials, and advocates improving U.S. elections by making sure each ballot is counted accurately for fair results the public can verify.