As reports of Russian interference in the 2016 election (and continued potential interference in American election matters) keep bubbling up, Wisconsin, a key swing state, has learned its voting machines appear to be vulnerable to hacking.
Five elections experts told the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that the state’s voting systems are able to be hacked, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reports.
According to the report, our increasingly “modern” voting systems are subject to a variety of issues that can affect election outcomes. While outside hacking is one possibility, human error, dust bunnies on the machines’ optical scanners, and other issues are commonplace. A number of activists are pushing for more stringent election audits in order to ensure that votes are counted accurately and reflect voters’ choices.
“Rigorously auditing the outcome of the election is an essential safeguard against cyberattacks,” J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society, told Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter Grigor Atanesian.
We’ve long known that our voting machines aren’t impervious to attacks. In 2015, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency demonstrated that its state’s voting machines operate with “a high level of risk.” The Wi-Fi connected machines were protected by easily-guessable passwords and were running Windows software that hadn’t been updated in 11 years. At DEFCON last year, hackers showed that U.S. voting machines could be hacked in under 90 minutes. And earlier this month, we learned that one of the nation’s largest voting machine vendors installed remote access software on its devices, potentially opening them up to outside hacking.
In March, Congress passed a grant allocating $380 million to help states shore up their voting machine systems. Wisconsin received $7 million of that sum and plans to use it to create six full-time election and cybersecurity staff positions at the Wisconsin Elections Commission. It will also fund election security training for local officials and strengthen the state’s voter registration system.
However, the 2018 midterms are just three months away.
Correction 12:01pm CT, July 31: This report has been edited to credit the original reporting by Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporter Grigor Atanesian.