How vulnerable are Georgia voting machines to hackers?

The U.S. Intelligence Community saying Russia is trying to influence the outcome and Donald Trump is raising concerns about a "rigged" election, but what about a cyber attack on our voting system?
The U.S. Intelligence Community saying Russia is trying to influence the outcome and Donald Trump is raising concerns about a "rigged" election, but what about a cyber attack on our voting system?

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- The U.S. Intelligence Community saying Russia is trying to influence the outcome and Donald Trump is raising concerns about a “rigged” election, but what about a cyber attack on our voting system?

Not likely, says election official Lynn Bailey.

“The most important thing to know about Georgia’s voting system is the voting machines are not interconnected to each other, nor are they connected to the internet in any way,” said Bailey, who is the executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.

This is how they work: each machine contains a memory card. When it comes time to tally the votes, election officials take those memory cards to a secure server, that is also disconnected from the internet.

But could a hacker get to the cards?

“A recent professor at Princeton University, Dr. Appl, was actually able to prove that very entry-level programmers for example in computer science could easily get ahold of one of these cards, these removable chips, which drive these machines, reprogram them, and insert them to manipulate the machine inversely,” said Jon Creekmore of the Cyber Discovery Group.

However, there are protocols to keep that from happening.

“Every single piece of equipment is tested before we send it out,” Bailey said. “And we’re not just cutting it on to say, ‘yeah it works.’ We’re cutting it on… we’re putting election results in it, predetermined election results, and making sure the output is the same as the input so the logic of the machine is working properly.”

There are also physical guards against attackers. Each machine is kept under lock and key when it’s not being used and sealed up after the inspection they go through before each election.

Bailey, the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland security say a direct cyber attack to alter ballot counts if far-fetched.

“I’m not going to be so naive as to say it’s not possible, but when you consider the whole picture and all the checks and balances and the chain of commands and things that are set into place to protect the equipment…it seems so highly improbable as to be impossible.”

The U.S. election system is decentralized with more than 9,000 voting systems across the country, which would make a coordinated national attack on voting systems very difficult. The Election Assistance Commission says all voting systems are tested for security, and systems they certify are not connected to the internet.

 

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