Here’s how to thwart Russian attacks on the 2018 elections

100 experts on election security (including conservatives, progressives, academics, corporate officials, and member of the national security community)  released a letter that lays out a plan for safeguarding the vote. Despite their personal political differences, they are all united in the view that our nation’s rough patchwork of voting security measures is wholly inadequate.   Even more importantly, they are united in what to do about it.

Here are their recommended actions

  • Phase out the use of voting technologies such as paperless Direct Recording Electronic voting machines that do not provide a voter-verified paper ballot.
  •  Create firewalls (software barriers) between internet and all voter registration, vote-tabulating machines, ballot delivery, and election management systems. Require layered backup systems to ensure that intrusions and corruption of the databases can be detected and corrected.
  • Review and document compliance with the recommendations and checklists prepared by the US Department of Homeland Security for security, penetration testing, network scanning, and detection and management of potential cyber-attacks. Review and track FBI security alerts.
  • Ensure that voting systems and information technology that supports voting systems have the latest security patches, and that those patches have been provided from trusted sources on trusted media. Limit physical access and regularly audit sensitive and critical election systems.
  • Discourage voters from voting online in any form—via web, email or fax—even in states where it is legal. Inform voters that electronically submitted ballots can be modified, copied, rerouted or simply deleted during transmission.
  • Compare random samples of voting system totals to hand counts of the votes on the corresponding paper ballots.
  • Audit in a way that has a large chance of detecting and correcting any incorrect electoral outcomes, whatever their cause.
  • Recruit technical experts to assist with tests and audits. Resources for finding experts, many of whom may provide pro bono services, include the Election Verification Network, professional societies such as the American Statistical Association, and academic institutions.
  • Allow public oversight of all audits, and prominently publicize all testing and audit results.
  • Report and publicize ballot accounting and final results in detail before certification.

The American election system is a patchwork of computerized voting systems.  There is no over-arching architecture. State and local authorities are largely free to choose the election products that make the most sense for their citizens.  That decentralized diversity has been touted as a strength of voting in the U.S.   Unfortunately the strength of decentralization falls apart when confronted with a determined, well-funded, state-backed adversary.  State and local officials simply cannot keep up.

Let local election officials know that there are alternatives that would greatly enhance public confidence in their systems.



At today’s hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Prof. Alex Halderman gave a recipe for enhancing the security of our computerized voting systems:

Step 1: Replace DRE touchscreen systems with paper ballots and optical scanners.

Step 2: Use risk-limiting post-election audits to verify election results.

Step 3: Adopt best Cybersecurity practices and technologies appropriate to the threat.


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