NEWS

CIA Cybersecurity Expert Calls Into Question Security of Electronic Voting

By Matthew Harwood

A cybersecurity expert with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has added his voice to the chorus of criticism regarding the vulnerability of electronic voting systems to tampering, reports McClatchy.

[Scott] Stigall [a CIA cybersecurity expert] told the Election Assistance Commission, a tiny agency that Congress created in 2002 to modernize U.S. voting, that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results.

"You heard the old adage 'follow the money,' " Stigall said, according to a transcript of his hourlong presentation. "I follow the vote. And wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to … make bad things happen."

Stigall said that voting equipment connected to the Internet could be hacked, and machines that weren't connected could be compromised wirelessly. Eleven U.S. states have banned or limited wireless capability in voting equipment, but Stigall said that election officials didn't always know it when wireless cards were embedded in their machines.

The CIA, Stigall said, has uncovered apparent election-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia, and Ukraine that call into question the security of electronic voting and the legitimacy of election results.

The CIA began monitoring electronic voting in foreign countries based on fears that foreign nationals could hack into electronic voting systems in the United States, Stigall said. After studying nearly three dozen countries using electronic voting systems, Stigall concluded that most Web-based election systems are insecure, even when they leave paper receipts.

Inside the United States, there has been widespread criticism of electronic voting systems, especially after contested election results in Ohio, Florida, and other swing states. A campaign has arisen to mandate that all electronic voting machines leave behind a paper trail, but if Stigall's right, even this won't ensure fair election results.

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