Saturday, June 25

Republican Election Audits Have Sparked Voting System Violations, Experts Say | US News

Republican efforts to challenge Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020 have led to voting system violations that experts say pose a risk to future elections.

Copies of Dominion Voting Systems software used to design ballots, set up voting machines, and count results were distributed at an event this month in South Dakota hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump ally who has made claims. unfounded about last year’s elections.

Matt Masterson, a former senior election security official in the Trump administration, said: “In essence, we told election officials that they should assume that this information is already available. Now we know what it is, and we don’t know what [hackers] let’s do with that. “

The software copies come from voting teams in Mesa County, Colorado and Antrim County, Michigan, where Trump allies challenged the results last fall. Dominion software is used in about 30 states, including California, Georgia, and Michigan.

Harri Hursti, a pioneer in election security, was at the South Dakota event and said that he and other researchers received three separate copies of the election management systems that run on Dominion software. The data indicated that they were from Antrim and Mesa counties. While it’s unclear how the copies were released, they were also posted online and made available for public download.

The release offers hackers a “practice environment” to investigate vulnerabilities and a roadmap to bypass defenses, Hursti said. All the hackers would need is physical access to the systems because they are not supposed to be connected to the internet.

“The door is now wide open,” Hursti said. “The only question is, how do you sneak in the door?”

US election technology is dominated by three vendors, which means election officials cannot easily change existing technology. A representative for Dominion declined to comment, citing an investigation.

Hackers could sabotage the system, alter the ballot design or even try to change the results, said Kevin Skoglund, an expert in voting technology.

“This disclosure increases both the likelihood of something happening and the impact of what would happen if it did,” he said.

The Republicans’ effort to scrutinize the voting equipment began shortly after the November election, when Trump blamed his loss on widespread fraud. Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans, election officials from both parties and Trump’s own attorney general dismissed the allegations. A coalition of federal and state officials called the 2020 elections the “safest” in US history, and post-election audits across the country found no significant anomalies.

In County Antrim, a judge allowed a forensic examination of the voting equipment after a brief confusion of results led to a lawsuit alleging fraud. It was dismissed in May. Hursti said the release date of the software coincides with the date of the forensic examination.

Calls for information from the Antrim County Clerk and the local prosecutor were not immediately returned; a call was forwarded to the judge’s office to the county clerk. The Michigan secretary of state’s office declined to comment.

In Colorado, authorities are investigating whether Mesa County elections personnel provided unauthorized access to the systems. County Clerk of Elections Tina Peters appeared with Lindell in South Dakota and told the crowd that she was being targeted by Democrats.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said she alerted federal officials to the violation and was told it was not considered a “significant increase in the electoral risk landscape at this time.” This week, Mesa County commissioners voted to replace the voting equipment that Griswold ordered no longer used.

Geoff Hale, who heads election security at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa), said his agency has always operated under the assumption that system vulnerabilities are known to malicious actors. Instead, officials are focusing on ways to reduce risk, such as using ballots with a paper record that can be verified by the voter and rigorous post-election audits, Hale said.

Having Dominion’s software publicly exposed did not change the direction of the agency, Hale said.

Jack Cable, a security researcher, said he assumed American adversaries already had access to the software. He said he was more concerned that the post would stoke mistrust among the growing number of people who are unwilling to believe in the safety of the US election.

“It’s a concern that people, in the pursuit of trying to prove that the system is insecure, are actually making it more insecure,” said Cable, who recently joined a cybersecurity firm led by former Cisa chief Christopher Krebs. and former head of Facebook security. Alex Stamos.

Concerns about access to voting machines and software first arose in Arizona, where the Republican-controlled state senate hired Cyber ​​Ninjas, a firm with no voting experience, to audit Maricopa County’s results. The firm’s chief executive tweeted his support for conspiracy theories surrounding last year’s election.

After the county’s Dominion voting systems were delivered, Arizona’s top elections official determined they could not be used again and ordered new ones.

Dominion has filed lawsuits challenging unsubstantiated claims about its systems. In May, he said that giving Cyber ​​Ninjas access to his code was “reckless” and said it would cause “irreparable damage” to electoral security.

Ryan Macias, an expert on election security and technology who was in Arizona earlier this year to observe that review, was alarmed by the lack of cybersecurity protocols. There was no information on who was given access, whether those people had passed background checks or were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements. Cyber ​​Ninjas did not respond to an email.

Macías was not surprised to hear copies of the County Antrim system that had appeared online, given the questionable motives of the various groups that carried out the reviews and the central role voting systems have played in conspiracy theories. .

“This is what I anticipated would happen, and I anticipate it will happen once again leaving Arizona,” Macias said. “These actors have no responsibility or participation rules.”

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