Is It “Meddling”?

2018 midterm elections

“Meddling” is such a namby-pamby word. It conjures up visions of nosy old ladies with metal framed glasses at the end of their noses looking cross wise at someone. The old lady is about to tell the person what they are doing wrong and what they need to fix it. It is just a little thorn in someone’s life, a little pain that most of us have to endure at some point in our lives.

What the Russians did and are continuing to do is not a little thorn in our lives. Nope. What the Russians did and continue to do is to undermine the very underlying base of a democratic society – the election system. What the Russians have been involved in is sabotage of our democratic system. 

Our news media need to start referring to what happened in 2016 and what may happen in 2018 in much stronger language.

Thanks to the indictments last week we know that the Russian army is involved in various acts to sabotage our elections, including possibly hacking into various states registration systems. Claims are that nothing was changed but honestly no one really knows.

Last week information came out that manufacturers of election machinery installed off the shelf “pcAnywhere” software on some of the tabulator machines that are used to aggregate vote totals. In short , this is the infamous black box that most thought never existed. 

From motherboard.com:        

 “The nation’s top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.

In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had “provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.

ES&S is the top voting machine maker in the country, a position it held in the years 2000-2006 when it was installing pcAnywhere on its systems. The company’s machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ES&S election-management systems. It’s not clear why ES&S would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

The company told Wyden it stopped installing pcAnywhere on systems in December 2007, after the Election Assistance Commission, which oversees the federal testing and certification of election systems used in the US, released new voting system standards. Those standards required that any election system submitted for federal testing and certification thereafter could contain only software essential for voting and tabulation. Although the standards only went into effect in 2007, they were created in 2005 in a very public process during which the security of voting machines was being discussed frequently in newspapers and on Capitol Hill.

Election-management systems are not the voting terminals that voters use to cast their ballots, but are just as critical: they sit in county election offices and contain software that in some counties is used to program all the voting machines used in the county; the systems also tabulate final results aggregated from voting machines.”

As we saw in 2016 a few votes totals changed in strategic places can make someone who lost the popular vote president. Using fairly easily hacked off the shelf software can make it possible if the right people discover it.

As far as we know nothing has changed in the 21 months since our last election nor does it look like there will be a sudden rush to fix it all in the next 3 or 4 months. We may all be shocked when the blue tsunami turns into a trickle, but there has been nothing done to stop subterfuge.

One development this week in the election arena was that Republicans cut new money for election security grants to states. It is almost as if they want the election systems to be vulnerable.

If the vulnerability of our election systems doesn’t concern you, remember that Russians specifically have been accused of hacking into our electric grid along with attempts at various other systems:

“Russia has attempted to attack targets that include “energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors” since March 2016, DHS said.

Gaining access to the networks that are tied to various aspects of US infrastructure is extremely difficult, said Vikram Thakur, of Symantec Security Response. Thakur, a technical director at Symantec, added that cyberattacks like the one DHS described Thursday have the potential to cause significant damage, unlike those in which the attacker is solely looking for information.”

Attacking those systems might screw up your ability to play internet games. So it could be important.

One thing every American can do this fall is vote for Democrats. If Democrats gain the majority in one or both houses of congress they will be in charge of committees that will do real investigations into what has been happening. An overwhelming vote will beat any hacking, I believe. Then we can be done with the fake investigations that we have been having and can have real inquiries with witnesses under oath who then must testify or suffer consequences.

The fix for a very vulnerable voting system is the old tried and true hand marked paper ballots with open counting just like the old days.

Video 6 minutes:

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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