STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Hackers bring stark warning about election security to Capitol Hill ahead of midterms

The vulnerabilities in America's voting systems are "staggering," a group representing hackers warned lawmak...

Posted: Sep 28, 2018 8:49 AM
Updated: Sep 28, 2018 8:49 AM

The vulnerabilities in America's voting systems are "staggering," a group representing hackers warned lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday -- just over a month before the midterm elections.

The findings are based on a project at the Voting Village at the Def Con hacking conference held in Las Vegas last month, where hackers were invited to attempt to break into voting machines and other equipment used in elections across the country.

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal offenses

Digital crime

Digital security

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

Midterm elections

Political candidates

Politics

Technology

US Congress

US Federal elections

US Presidential elections

Voters and voting

The hacking group claims they were able to break into some voting machines in two minutes and that they had the ability to wirelessly reprogram an electronic card used by millions of Americans to activate a voting terminal to cast their ballot.

"This vulnerability could be exploited to take over the voting machine on which they vote and cast as many votes as the voter wanted," the group claims in the report.

The security of America's election infrastructure has come under increased scrutiny since 2016, when it emerged that Russian hackers had targeted state-level voting systems, in addition to hacking the emails of the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign and orchestrating an elaborate disinformation campaign on social media.

A voting tabulation machine the group says is used in more than two dozen states is vulnerable to be remotely hacked, they said, claiming, "hacking just one of these machines could enable an attacker to flip the Electoral College and determine the outcome of a presidential election."

Additionally, the group says they identified another flaw in the same machine that had been used in the 2016 election. The issue had initially been identified a decade ago, prompting the group to complain that even when issues are detected, they are not fixed.

A spokesperson for the machine's manufacturer, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), said that while the company is no longer manufacturing the machine in question, the M650, there are approximately 270 units actively in use in the U.S. Adding, "it has a solid, proven track record when used in a real election environment with proper physical controls."

Speaking at a briefing on the report on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the vulnerabilities in US election infrastructure a "travesty." She said, "we were ripe for the plucking by the Russians [in 2016]," and warned that "we're ripe for the plucking by the Russians, and the Chinese and the Iranians in future elections."

Hackers face criticism

While the hackers say their endeavor is a civic exercise to expose flaws in election machines so they can be remedied, they have faced criticism.

A spokesperson for ES&S said that the conditions at Def Con where machines are accessible to hackers with "zero controls" does not reflect reality. The company said in a statement, "The totality of security measures—such as voting machines never being connected to the internet, tamper-resistant seals, along with more advanced technology found in newer equipment—provides for an environment that would be difficult to compromise without detection."

In most parts of the country, secretaries of state oversee elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has also been critical, with a spokesperson saying in a statement last month, "Our main concern with the approach taken by DEFCON is that it utilizes a pseudo environment which in no way replicates state election systems, networks or physical security."

But not all secretaries of state are critical. Alex Padilla, California's secretary of state, who attended Def Con last month, told CNN there it was important for officials responsible for election integrity to engage with groups of white-hat hackers like those at the event. A white hat hacker is a computer security expert who exposes flaws in systems so they can be addressed.

In total, organizers of the Voting Village at Def Con said they gathered 30 pieces of election machinery, most of which was purchased through eBay and government surplus auctions, they said.

Calls on Congress

The report released by the group on Thursday was co-authored by Voting Village organizers, including Jake Braun, a former White House official who served as national deputy field director on President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

The report implores Congress to act, saying that individual states that are responsible for overseeing elections do not have the capabilities to protect themselves from hackers backed by America's adversaries.

"National defense is not the role of state and local government. Further, no state or local government will ever be able to raise enough capital to defend itself from a determined nation state. Thus, having codified the basic security standards developed by local election officials above, Congress must finance the implementation of these security standards," the report read.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32437

Reported Deaths: 2030
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9371546
Lake3347170
Cass15867
Allen135366
St. Joseph121834
Hendricks113567
Hamilton112391
Johnson1092104
Elkhart107028
Madison58259
Porter49521
Bartholomew48634
Clark47141
LaPorte41523
Tippecanoe3803
Howard37620
Jackson3681
Delaware35936
Hancock32327
Shelby32121
Floyd31539
Boone29335
Morgan27024
Vanderburgh2532
Montgomery23317
White2288
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19521
Noble19221
Harrison18821
Dubois1852
Henry1709
Greene16824
Warrick16528
Dearborn16421
Monroe16211
Vigo1507
Lawrence14623
Miami1391
Putnam1347
Jennings1284
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1136
Franklin1068
Kosciusko971
Carroll932
Daviess8416
Marshall801
Steuben802
Wayne755
Newton7410
Wabash732
Fayette714
Jasper621
LaGrange622
Washington521
Fulton471
Jay460
Randolph453
Rush452
Jefferson421
Whitley412
Clay411
Pulaski400
Owen341
Sullivan331
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke313
Perry260
Wells260
Huntington262
Knox250
Benton250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford202
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke180
Spencer171
Posey160
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0159
West Lafayette
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 83°
Kokomo
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 81°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 81°
Williamsport
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
Crawfordsville
Broken Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Frankfort
Overcast
81° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Delphi
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 80°
Monticello
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 80°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 80°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events