US Senators Quiz Vendors Over Russian Access To Voting Machines

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Have the Russians sneaked a peak at the source code used in e-voting machines, ask US Senators

Voting machine vendors in the United States are being asked about the security practices of their devices.

The development came after two Democratic US senators demanded to know whether the firms had allowed Russian entities to scrutinize their software.

This is not the first time that the safety and security of American e-voting machines has been called into question, and comes amid growing concerns at scale of Russian interference in Western affairs.

Russian Interference

US Senators Amy Klobuchar and Jeanne Shaheen sent letters to all major manufacturers of voting machines in the United States, according to Reuters.

It comes after a series of reports from Reuters which reported that several major global technology providers had allowed Russian authorities to hunt for vulnerabilities in software deeply embedded across the US government.

In January 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security designated the nation’s election technology and systems as critical infrastructure.

The US Senators have now asked three of the largest election equipment vendors, namely Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart Intercivic, whether they have shared source code, or inner workings, or other sensitive data about their technology with any Russian entity.

The senators also want the vendors to explain what steps they have taken to improve the security of those products against cyber threats.

“According to voting machine testing and certification from the Election Assistance Commission, most voting machines contain software from firms which were alleged to have shared their source code with Russian entities,” the senators reportedly wrote. “We are deeply concerned that such reviews may have presented an opportunity for Russian intelligence agents looking to attack or hack the United States’ elections infrastructure.”

According to US intelligence services, the US presidential elections in 2016 was marred by Russia interference, to try to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

And US officials claim that twenty-one US states experienced probing of their systems by Russian hackers during the 2016 election.

That said, there is no evidence any vote was altered, and Russia continues to deny any involvement.

Voting Security

But this is not the first time that concern has been raised about the security of American voting machines.

In 2015 a report from Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) found that one electronic voting machine used in certain US states had a shocking level of protection from hackers.

The e AVS WINVote voting terminal was found to be running a version of Windows XP Embedded that had not been updated in over ten years, and it was also hard encoded with very weak passwords and encryption.

And in July last year, dozens of machines used in the US voting system were easily hacked at the annual DefCon security conference in Las Vegas.

Advocacy group Verified Voting is known to be pushing for the use of paper ballots (like in the UK) and mandatory auditing computers ahead of the 2018 US midterm elections and 2020 presidential elections.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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