Security and the Fate of our Democracy: Weekly Cybersecurity Brief

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With the 2020 election being a short six months away, more and more attention is being drawn towards election security. Although efforts are being made by the government to make sure voting runs as smoothly as possible, one cannot help but to ask: Are these efforts enough to save the rectitude of our democracy? Articles by Joseph Marks, Abel Morales and Tonya Riley in combination with NPR’s podcast with Terry Gross interviewing Emily Bazelon, give insightful updates on what is being done to keep our election as secure as possible and explore whether these efforts are enough.

So, what is going on with election security? A few weeks ago, the U.S. government offered each state $20 million to go towards election voting due to the changes brought upon from the pandemic. One major downside to the federal funds is each state that accepts the money must match the accepted amount with 20% of their own capital. With many states already struggling financially, states such as Florida are hesitant to accept the money. In fact, Emily Bazelon states that it is estimated to cost $4 billion to properly run the election in November; meanwhile, Congress has only allocated $400 million. In addition to financial struggles, Americans still need to worry about the transition to an internet-based voting system and the repercussions that come with it. Risk factors such as vote change, block and undermining secrecy are major security threats

The financial and technical implications of the upcoming election quickly turned voter security into a partisan issue. While many Democrats are pushing for expanded vote-by-mail, Republicans generally want the opposite. This leads many to believe mail-in ballots may not be the answer after all. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United States Postal Service has been down 30%. This decline means that the post office might have to shut down operations if it does not receive funding from the government, affecting the ability to use mail-in ballots. This factor makes election security even more complicated.

So, what is the government doing to address the election security fiasco? Well, there are funds being allocated towards keeping the election secure. However, the problem will persist until more preventative efforts are made such as employing white hat hackers and holding machine vendors accountable by making sure all systems are up to date. These are some of the questions U.S. citizens need to be asking as we get closer to the election. The answers may reveal democracy in transition.

Key Takeaways

The Cybersecurity 202: Internet based voting is the new front in the election security wars – Joseph Marks, The Washington Post

  • States are scrambling to switch to online voting even though it is highly insecure
  • Hackers can change, block, or undermine ballot secrecy
  • It would cost about $2 billion to prevent hackers
  • President Trump is against mail-in voting

What to make of HBO’s ‘Kill Chain the Cyber War on America’s Elections’ – Abel Morales, Fifth Domain

  • Hacking an election can take three days or less
  • White hat hackers can be employed to fix some of the security issues
  • Ways to prevent hacking include updated technologies, secure platforms and holding vendors accountable

The Cybersecurity 202: Florida becomes hot spot in the election security wars – Joseph Marks with Tonya Riley, The Washington Post

  • Florida officials have yet to announce if they will accept the $20 million in federal money
  • Officials fear not accepting the money could lead to election failure
  • Utah and Oklahoma, are they only two other states that have turned down the money?

How Protecting Voter Safety With Mail-In Ballots Became a Partisan Issue – Terry Gross interviewing Emily Bazelon, NPR

  • Democrats want expanded vote by mail, while Republicans generally do not
  • It is estimated to cost $4 billion to properly run the election in November; meanwhile, Congress has only allocated $400 million
  • The Post Office might have to shut down operations if it does not receive funding from the government affecting the ability to use mail-in ballots

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