The Senate Intelligence Committee recently released a report detailing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Russian interference is nothing new – discourse since 2016 has focused on Russia’s (technically legal) social engineering and manipulation of social networks. The report, however, confirms Russia’s definitively illegal interference with electronic voting systems, and “the US was unprepared at all levels of government for a concerted attack from a determined foreign adversary on our election infrastructure,” said Committee Chairman Richard Burr in an accompanying statement.
Given American technological capabilities, how was this interference possible?
Voting is still in the dark ages
Voting lies at the heart of democracy, yet it has failed to make the same technological advancements that we’ve come to expect in other facets of our lives. Almost five decades into the “digital revolution,” we still consider paper ballots the “secure” standard for choosing leadership.
Why don’t we vote electronically?
Implicit in our trust of paper-based systems is a distrust of technology. Although technology has the potential to revolutionize the democratic process, the digital voting systems currently in place are often far from secure.
Today’s electronic ballot boxes, when implemented incorrectly, pose astonishing risks: For example, the US’ electronic ballot systems (called DRE, which stands for “direct electronic recording”) have notoriously relied on Windows XP, a software released in 2001. In 2014, security expert Carsten Schuermann hacked into a DRE machine over a Wi-Fi network in mere minutes by exploiting Windows XP’s old security protocols.