Swing states telling Feds ‘no thanks’ in helping to secure electronic balloting

(Cyberwar.news) The federal government offered to help states secure their electronic balloting but a number of swing states are telling Washington, “No, thanks.” Trust seems to be an issue with at least some of the states.

As reported by NextGov, the Department of Homeland Security made its offer a few weeks ago on the heels of suspected Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and some Republican elected officials. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, in an Aug. 15 call with state elections officials, even suggested that the federal government treat U.S. elections as critical infrastructure that should be protected by the federal government.

Some security experts have said that it wouldn’t take the sophistication of great powers to manipulate actual votes using America’s antiquated tallying systems.

But some swing states are declining the offer, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, with officials there saying they will rely on in-state cybersecurity crews.

“The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Nextgov in an email. “Designating voting systems or any other election system as critical infrastructure would be a vast federal overreach, the cost of which would not equally improve the security of elections in the United States.”

Some cybersecurity experts, however, see Georgia’s balloting system in particular as ripe for manipulation.

“Georgia, which is running electronic-only machines—there’s no paper trail. … And the machines they’re using are more than a decade old, so the hardware is falling apart. And the operating system they’re using is Windows 2000, which hasn’t been updated for security for years, which means it’s a sitting duck,” Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina information and library science professor, told NPR on Saturday.

Johnson has said there is no evidence that any U.S. election has been tampered with in the past, but as Defense One reported, election-tampering is all the rage at Las Vegas hacker conferences.

Most states maintain a paper trail to audit and ensure voting accuracy, but not all, and that includes Georgia and Pennsylvania.

In an interview with Defense One, Pennsylvania voting officials said they are working closely with in-state IT experts to ensure the integrity of their electronic voting systems.

Pennsylvania has implemented policies, technologies, best practices and procedures around the safeguarding of data and the protection of our applications, systems and resources,” Pennsylvania Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said. ”We constantly monitor our data and systems for vulnerabilities and attempted attacks in order to keep pace with the rapidly evolving threat landscape.”

Other swing states, however, have taken DHS up on its offer. Ohio, where Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump are running neck and neck, is working closely with DHS.

The Ohio Department of Homeland Security is working with their federal counterparts, so we are working through them to perform the needed scans,” Ohio secretary of state spokesman Joshua Eck told Nextgov in an email.

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