One of the defining characteristics of the U.S. democratic system is the right to vote, and for that vote to count. That makes tampering with the vote tantamount to treason.
Some believe that such tampering has already taken place in the Midterm elections yet to be conducted. Vox has more on the story.
“What happened in Knox County last spring provided apparent confirmation of what leaders in the intelligence community have warned for months: that the successful interference campaign in the 2016 elections — an event that the Senate Intelligence Committee this year called “an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure” — is being reprised in the 2018 midterms, and will continue for the foreseeable future.”
The Knox County event being referenced is one where last may, a primary election in Knoxville, Tennessee was hit by a prolonged DDOS attack. Voters and officials lost access to the county election website. Vote tallies and other useful election day information went dark.
The assistant IT director, Dave Ball, was convinced they were just dealing with a DDOS attack. He tried to explain to concerned parties that it was little more than an inconvenience and that no votes could suffer tampering anymore than the outcome of a basketball game could be altered by changing the score on an informational site. Vox explains how wrong this turned out to be.
“Long before election night, attackers had uncovered a vulnerability in Knox’s website — ‘loosely written code,’ Ball called it — and they timed the onslaught perfectly so they could exploit it during the scramble.”
Later investigation revealed that no data was lost. But hackers were able to meddle with preliminary results, and even announce false winners. We don’t know why they didn’t do those things, or even who they were.
In 2014, a security firm called Sword and Shield reported similar attacks from 65 countries. The United Kingdom and Ukraine were the two countries where malicious probes were traced.
Experts in the intelligence community suggest that things are going to get worse before they get better. Election officials call on us to face the hard truth that everything about elections is undergoing a sea change “from the ballots we cast to the outcomes we read about to the way we process our most personal decisions.”
They say the vulnerabilities of our election system are due to the fact that “the basic configuration of American elections dates to 1890 — a chaotic ritual designed, literally, for another century.”
Alex Stamos, the former Facebook chief information security officer, is convinced that not enough has been done to improve local election protections. He believes it is time to start looking ahead to the 2020 elections. That is because, in his opinion, it is already too late to save the 2018 elections. This year, the damage is already done.