Dr. Balakrishnan Dasarathy Professor & Chair for the Information Assurance program,
University of Maryland University College
Answering this question rigorously is vital for keeping faith in our democracy!
Our election systems consist of two major types of systems: ballot and registration systems. A close examination of these systems is necessary to get a complete picture of the prospect of a hack and its ramifications.
Voting ballot machines, where votes are cast, are the most important ones from the election integrity perspective. These machines are not typically connected to the Internet, at least during voting, and that prevents them from being hacked. A thumb drive is used to extract data from a voting machine, and this thumb drive with cryptographically-protected data is then securely handed over to a central location for vote-tallying purposes. In some states, many direct-recording electronic voting machines that do not produce any paper record remain in use. This certainly puts such machines at risk for lost votes in case of machine failures.
The voter-registration systems in many states allow eligible voters to register online, and, as such, are not cyber-attack proof. Hacking here could certainly lead to deletion or manipulation of voter rolls?thus disrupting elections and reducing faith in our electoral process. Fortunately, processes can be put in place to detect, on a daily basis, any alteration to the voter database.
Trustworthiness: Before the 2016 general election, about 34% of likely voters believed that year election would be rigged, according to a New York Times report. The pressing issue is not just one of information security, but about assurance and the trustworthiness of all voting technology and processes. Trustworthiness demands that we maintain a paper trail, that officials and party representatives verify all voting systems are working just prior to voting, and that there is a review of tally results in each precinct?or at least randomly selected precincts?with ballots from the paper trails kept.
Dr. George Dimitoglou Associate Professor,
Center for Computer Security & Information Assurance, Hood College, Frederick, Maryland
The work focuses on identifying the existing challenges and opportunities to make elections secure and reliable: ranging from the voter registration process and the actual voting to counting the results. The solutions require the a certain technology mix, the development of standards and policies along with the political will to fund and deploy a robust election process.
The topic is both timely and relevant given the upcoming elections and will include information and experience related to the securing of the Frederick County Election Board systems and processes during the summer of 2018.