Critical New Discovery During Wisconsin Recount: Cellular Connectivity of Tabulators Leaves Door Open to Hacking
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MADISON, Wis., Dec. 15, 2016
A huge security hole in our US elections, which allows alteration of vote totals by outsider or insider entities, was discovered during the Wisconsin recount, according to electronic security investigators from RecountNow.org.
A cellular capability is available as an option on the latest Election Systems and Software (ES&S) DS200 model of optical scanner.
"Cellular connectivity at the precinct level is bad," says IT specialist Jim March-Simpson, who, along with forensic investigator John Brakey, discovered and examined the vulnerability, "but the precinct-level scanners can open an internet channel to the central vote tabulator." March-Simpson is referring to a central unit that collects and adds vote totals from a whole region.
"That is the big disaster," says March-Simpson, "and cannot be tolerated in a US election."
An entity with "government-level resources . . . could completely 'own' the electoral process," March-Simpson says. "If the central vote tabulator does not have the best possible security, then even a good hacker with a normal PC can get in," he reports.
Cellular wireless connections can not only link directly with the internet, but they are built to have a longer range and be harder to detect than regular Wi-Fi networks. There is universal agreement among computer professionals that anything connected to the internet is hackable.
When FBI Director James Comey told the public, and Congress specifically, that none of our election equipment is connected to the internet, perhaps he was unaware of these connections or did not fully understand their implications. It is possible that no government agency ever examined, tested or certified this newest equipment.
There are currently over 26,500 ES&S DS200 optical scan vote-counting machines in 25 states. It is not yet known how many of them have the cellular capability at present, nor whether other equipment models have the same or similar capabilities. DS200 scanners count ballots electronically; ballots are fed in by hand but are counted by a computer inside in accordance with programmable instructions.
"This is a huge discovery that totally changes the rather blanket assurances of election security," stated Jonathan Simon of RecountNow. "Gaping vulnerabilities such as these, coupled with the statistical red flags that have appeared in places where these vulnerable machines have been used to count votes, call for immediate and thorough federal investigation of the electoral results to which they contributed."
March-Simpson and Brakey are working with the support of several non-partisan, nonprofit organizations working to achieve transparent elections, AuditZ, ProtectOurVote, RecountNow, and TrustVote.
RecountNow is a citizens' group of experienced forensic investigators, IT specialists, statisticians, and data analysts, dedicated to fair, secure, and transparent elections.