The real question about U.S. election hacking

The important question about computer hacking of the American voting system is not:

  • Is there evidence that Russian computer hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election?

The important question is:

  • Can the American voting system be hacked?

Because if the American voter registration rolls or vote counting systems are vulnerable to outside interference, sooner or later somebody is going to interfere.

It may be Russian agents.  It may be agents of some other foreign country.   It may be unscrupulous American political operatives or special interests.  But somebody will do it.

POLITICO magazine recently reported that last August, Logan Lamb, a 29-year-old cybersecurity specialist, accidentally gained access to the voting records and systems for the whole state of Georgia.   He reported the problem to the proper authorities, but was brushed off.

Bloomberg News reported that investigators said that, prior to the 2016 election, Russians gained access to voter databases and software systems in 39 states, including software designed to be used by poll watchers and, in one state, a campaign finance data base.

There is no evidence that 2016 election results were actually changed, according to Bloomberg.  Whatever happened may have been a training exercise for a future operation.

Vladimir Putin, in his interviews with Oliver Stone for a soon-to-be-released movie, accused the United States of interfering in Russian elections.  Putin denied allegations of Russian hacking, but, when asked whether there is a secret U.S.-Russian cyber war, he said that for every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction, which sounds like a semi-admission.

The main reason for thinking that the Russians might have attempted to hack the system is that they had the means, motive and opportunity.

The reason that anybody at all has this opportunity is the vulnerability of U.S. election technology.   This is a problem that has been reported on for more than a decade.  The solution to this problem is paper ballots and voter registration records.



  • My confidence in the U.S. election system is threatened more by the infamous CrossCheck system than by anything Russians have done.


Russian Cyber Hacks on U.S. Electoral System Far Wider Than Previously Known by MIchael Riley and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg Politics.

Will the Georgia Special Election Be Hacked? by Kim Zetter for POLITICO magazine.   Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

US interfered repeatedly in Russian elections – Putin by RT News.

Worried About Election Hacking?  There’s a Fix for That by John Nichols for The Nation.  Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.  [Added Later]


The Bloomberg article includes an audio of an interview with an expert for CrowdStrike, the private firm called in to investigate hacking of the Democratic National Committee.   He said he was certain that the Russians did it because:

  • The malware that enabled the hacker to gain access was extremely sophisticated and even had the ability to delete itself turn itself off.  Few people without the resources of an entire government would be able to do this.
  • The malware was written on a Russian-language keyboard, and the time stamps of the entries were during normal business hours in Russia.

My questions are:

  • If the malware had the capability to delete itself, how was the security person able to analyze it?
  • What would prevent a Russian hacker from obtaining an English-language keyboard and altering his computer time settings to North American business hours?
  • Why did the DNC deny the FBI access to the hacked servers?

Maybe there are obvious things I don’t see.  Maybe these questions could have been easily answered if I had been present.  What do you think?  What I am missing?

[Update 6/27/2017]  I think I may have misinterpreted what the expert said.




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