Cyberattacks are in the news on a daily basis, and many people are wondering if a coordinated cyberattack could alter the election results on Tuesday. While there is little doubt that a cyberattack could disrupt the election reporting process, the core voting system appears secure for the election.
Ten states targeted
At least ten states reported that hackers had probed or breached their election systems over the past few months. There are probably further attempts that have either not been reported or discovered. The Department of Homeland Security and private firms are routinely conducting security audits on election systems around the country.
8000 election jurisdictions
While a coordinated and massive cyberattack could cause delay and confusion in the voting process and the reporting of results, it is less likely that such an attack could alter the outcome of the election. The U.S. election system consists of many individual fiefdoms that use a wide variety of different systems for the voting process. There is no single technology mandated for elections, so each of the more than 8,000 election jurisdictions in the country is free to choose the technology and procedure they will use.
While many of the existing systems are outdated and cumbersome, it is the lack of a single advanced technology system that helps protect the sanctity of the vote. With so many systems in use around the country, it would be impossible to attack all of them in one attack.
While these breaches have helped sow the seeds of distrust, in reality, hacking the election remains technically challenging, even for state actors like Russia. — PBS, NOVA
Online voting increasingly popular
While America’s antiquated voting system may work to protect the 2016 election, things are changing. Online voting is becoming increasingly popular with the electorate and will eventually become the norm. In 2000, there were no states that permitted online voting; now there are 32 that allow some form of online voting, mostly for voters living overseas. The attraction of online voting is clear. The more convenient it is for people to vote, the greater the likelihood that they will. In the American system, it is a given that it is in the national interest to encourage voting by the greatest number of citizens.
The down side of online voting is that it is open to cyberattacks and manipulation.
We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security of their votes and provides an avenue for malicious actors to manipulate the voting results. — Neil Jenkins, Office of Cybersecurity, Homeland Security
Russia behind hacking
There is a consensus in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia has been behind the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Russia is assumed to have the greatest ability to mount a cyberattack on the scale that could cause disruption to the election process, although there is no consensus as to why they would find it in their national interest to do so.
The odds are that Tuesday’s election will have its share of glitches, but none that will prevent the will of the voters from being honored.