The upcoming elections are making lots of individuals nervous—including those responsible for sending out ballots or counting our votes. Recent hacks indicate that voter registration files have become a tempting target while new research found that a number of state registries possess really weak security.
On August 31, the Illinois Board of Elections reported a hack that viewed 700 voter records and ‘possibly viewed’ another 86,000. The state board indicated that none of the records showed any changes were made to the files. Notices have been prepared for roughly 83,000 individuals but the Board said it will be unable to notify everyone.
“There appear to be 3,533 records viewed which will not be able to be identified,” the agency said.
Arizona reported a similar attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is investigating these intrusions and others around the nation. During a U.S. House of Representatives hearing last week, FBI chief James Comey said over a dozen states had seen signs of attempted hacking.
One theory is that Russian hackers could be behind the attempts. As a result, nearly 20 states have requested cyber security advice from the Department of Homeland Security regarding elections.
Data compromised in several recent mainstream breaches included individual names, dates of birth and email addresses. That’s more than enough in many states to access voter records or initiate change of address requests.
Realchange.org researched voter data systems in all 50 states. Roughly 20% of the states are like Washington; they only require a name and birthdate to access an individual’s voter record.
All Washington elections are mail-in ballot only, so this simple access is quite frightening—especially for individuals wishing to hide home addresses from stalkers or abusive spouses. A mailing address and party affiliation details are easily obtained.
In Colorado and several additional states, a zip code is needed along with a date of birth to log in. From there, changes to an individual’s party affiliation or mailing address can easily be made. It’s not impossible to imagine a close election where someone tried to divert a bunch of ballots going to members of the opposing political party. If independent voters are expected to swing an election, abuse could misdirect unaffiliated voter ballots.
For some time, independent bloggers have warned of the risks to voter data; a risk that includes far more than state-run voter records. Back in June 2016, security researcher, Chris Vickery, uncovered a voter database packed with 154 million records located on an improperly secured server making it accessible on the web.
It’s too soon to predict if hackers will have some impact on the upcoming national election. However, it’s clear that voter records are not as secure as they could be and that itself is a huge headache. If you’re eager to cast a vote this season, it might be smart to check your online voter registration to make sure no one has tampered with your records.