Oct 26, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from WND: The result of an election will be changed by hackers, the only question remaining for an online security expert is which election will it be.
“I’m somewhat surprised it hasn’t happened yet,” said Stephen Cobb, a security evangelist for ESET-North America, an IT security company, in a recent article by Dark Reading, a website for security professionals.
Hacktivist groups like Anonymous and LulzSec are growing more sophisticated every day with their use of new collaborative hacking techniques, such as “crowdsourcing.” Meanwhile, voter databases are increasingly being put online on state and local computer systems that are often insecure and administered by part-time IT personnel.
“If big, Internet-based companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn, or Sony can fall to hackers, then, yeah, big government databases and local authorities who actually administer the election process can be hacked,” said Cobb.
While the voter databases carry mostly innocuous information, such as name and address, a hacktivist group could create havoc in an election if it was able to make changes to a database.
A hacker could, for example, switch the address of a person on a voting roll, putting him in a different precinct than where he actually lives. The switch could be done close to the election and could very well not be noticed until the day of the vote. By then it would be too late, and the person would be ineligible to vote.
Combining a voting database with other database information, such as those collected by supermarkets, coupon offers and consumer polling data, hackers could target an area for disenfranchisement by simply looking at the demographic breakdown of a voting precinct.
In a close race, as this presidential contest is shaping up to be, shifting the election turnout in a few precincts in a swing state such as Ohio could change the outcome of an election. One only needs to look at the 2000 election results in Florida to see how the voting results in one or two precincts would have given the country President Gore.
In the 2008 senatorial race in Minnesota, Al Franken won by 312 votes, the equivalent of one precinct. Tampering with just one machine could have changed the outcome of the election.
Such a scenario is not fanciful. With states such as Washington and Maryland putting voter registration data online, the threat is all too real.
“Any system that is networked, especially to the Internet, is inherently vulnerable to attacks on its availability, and the confidentiality and integrity of its data,” said Steve Santorelli, director of global outreach for the security research group Team Cymru.