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Q&A: The myths and realities of hacking an election

Steve Ragan | Oct. 6, 2016
CSO Online asked several experts for their thoughts on the realities of election hacking

One possible objective could be based on espionage, with a focus on policy shifts between candidates, said Art Gilliland, CEO of Skyport Systems.

"For example Pro-Russian versus adversarial stances would make a huge difference in international relations. Another option could just be to create chaos, selection of David Duke for example. Anarchists and Hacktivists like Anonymous would do it just to make a point."

Q: Why would someone target voting systems during the election cycle? All eyes are on the systems and data, isn't this a bit counterproductive?

"The question assumes we'd detect the compromise," Rice said.

"Even in more mature security systems, we still only detect a minority of compromises and believing that voting systems are immune to this property is hubris. The only prudent route is to both conclude that compromise is possible and that it will be extremely hard to detect."

It's hard to argue with events over the past year. Criminal hackers stole millions of records and millions of dollars from some of the most sophisticated companies and organizations in the world, and they made it look easy.

"Nation States are hacking into sensitive systems all the time with our best and brightest defending us. Modifying the voting systems manned and monitored by volunteers would be essentially 'child's play' for the hacker community," Gilliland said.

Final thoughts

When questioned for this story, Simon Crosby, the CTO of Bromium, offered some interesting perspectives. Cyber paranoia, he said, is leading to a new state of absurdity – where the protagonists are those who could be easily called 'Cyber Luddites.'

"Here’s their narrative: 'The most credible security researchers agree that it is impossible to build a secure voting system. Therefore we should stick with paper, forever.'"

"Sticking to paper-based voting systems has massive drawbacks. Does anyone remember hanging chads? It is impossible to build a perfect voting system. But we are getting very good (collectively) at building computer systems that are massively secure by design. Such systems, appropriately audited and tested by independent professionals, would improve accuracy of voting and move the world forward substantially."


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