FBI Director: Our Electronic Voting System Is Such A Complete Mess, It Would Be Difficult To Hack

from the well,-then dept

There’s been plenty of talking going around this election cycle about the terrible security problems with our current voting technology — along with some conspiracy-theory level talk of foreign agents looking to “hack” the election. We haven’t been very impressed with officials telling us all to calm down and it’s difficult to see how FBI director James Comey did himself any favors by basically arguing that the voting system is secure… mainly because of what a complete and utter mess it is. The larger point he’s making is somewhat valid, if clunky, in the fact that each state runs their own voting, so it’s not like hackers can get into one central system and wreak havoc. The different systems definitely make it harder. But arguing that this is a sign of good security seems kind of ridiculous:

?The beauty of the American voting system is that it is dispersed among the 50 states, and it is clunky as heck,?? said Mr. Comey. ?A lot of people have found that challenging over the years, but the beauty of that is it?s not exactly a swift part of the internet of things, and so it is hard for an actor to reach our voting process.??

Yeah, that’s basically security through obscurity… at scale. Not exactly very reassuring, even if the underlying point may be true.

Wouldn’t it be better if we just made sure the systems were actually secure (i.e., not computerized and connected to the internet) rather than just “clunky”?

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “FBI Director: Our Electronic Voting System Is Such A Complete Mess, It Would Be Difficult To Hack”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
42 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Those are likely the words he was trying to skirt around. His argument hinges on the election not being close enough for a few states with election-fraud to change the presidency…

What a clunky mess of an argument. While no foreign country is likely to have enough ressources and enough interests in USA to sway an election, 4 parties might…

Neither the democratic nor republican primaries were shining examples of fair and democratic elections…

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

let me make a BIG STATEMENT here..

How many states VERIFY addresses?
HOW many states verify and match Birth and death records??
How many states verify Property ownership?? and WHERE they live?

What would it take to OWN property, in many states, and be allowed to VOTE?? because the STATE dont realize you live in ANOTHER state??

Easy trick? YEP.

I.T. Guy says:

“The beauty of the American voting system is that it is dispersed among the 50 states, and it is clunky as heck,”

Out of the 50 states exactly how many different systems are used? There are a few vendors… 4 to be more precise… that have the majority of the voting system sales.

How many states do you need to sway an election? So you only need to know exploits on 2 systems to make a big impact no?

Look away folks nothing to see here.

streetlight (profile) says:

The system doesn't need to be hacked

For electronic voting machines or central tabulating computers having a USB port the system doesn’t need to be hacked. It can be destroyed with that $50 USB thumb drive that destroys the machine. Maybe it really is a hack if a concerted effort is made by a nefarious group to vote late in the day at selected precincts where voting histories are known. At least in my county in Colorado we vote using mail in paper ballots or paper ballots at precincts. They can be counted by hand if the readers break down.

hij (profile) says:

It only takes one

Perhaps the Director is trying to be coy and use security via obscurity. Unfortunately, the folks who might want to play games probably understand how the US electoral system works, primarily because it is described IN EVERY GRADE SCHOOL SOCIAL STUDIES BOOK. Given how close US elections have been it only takes one state to mess up a national election, and it only takes one state to make a mess of local elections for federal office since we are so evenly divided.

I am basing this analysis on an assumption that the Director knows how the US electoral system (including the Electoral College) works. That may be a stretch.

ECA (profile) says:

yes it is..

1. I dont want to hack it, I want to fix it..
2. WHO in hell would want to hack it, EXCEPT those in this country?? we make MORE of a mess with this, then THEY EVER COULD..
3. this is as bad as saying “The illegal MEXICANS want to vote”..WHY?? they just come here WORK, MAKE MONEY, and get a free ride back home.. AND what about the REST of south America??

Lets see…Make a BASIC programmed system to take votes, NO USB, or anything else that can HACK the system..then VERIFY the programming before counting it..
have at LEAST 3 parties acknowledge this protocol…and AWAY WE GO..

Personanongrata says:

Paper Ballots Please

If voting in national elections in the US actually meant something other than granting your consent to be governed by the duopoly (War Party) then paper ballots would be the preferred method of casting votes.

The convenience of electronic voting should not take precedent above the ability to audit the vote via a physical/tangible paper ballot trail.

Paper ballots may not be pretty but they once served this nation very well for 200 years.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Paper Ballots Please

Horses and wagons, as well as quill pens, candles and many other handmade goods may not be pretty but they once served this nation very well for 200 years. The convenience of cars and electricity should not take precedent above the ability to audit where our power and goods comes from!

Sorry, but luddism isn’t a good argument. Our laws and means of governance should be open to some degree of change, even for the sake of modern convenience. Nonetheless, it should always be transparent and accountable to the people. In the context of voting machines, they should make the source code open for public review or at the very least available for independent security audits and testing.

Personanongrata says:

Re: Re: Paper Ballots Please

any moose cow word, Sep 13th, 2016 @ 4:10pm

Horses and wagons, as well as quill pens, candles and many other handmade goods may not be pretty but they once served this nation very well for 200 years. The convenience of cars and electricity should not take precedent above the ability to audit where our power and goods comes from!

Sorry, but luddism isn’t a good argument. Our laws and means of governance should be open to some degree of change, even for the sake of modern convenience. Nonetheless, it should always be transparent and accountable to the people. In the context of voting machines, they should make the source code open for public review or at the very least available for independent security audits and testing.

Please what a dissembling pile of horse cocky if I’ve ever smelt one. PU.

Suggesting the use of paper ballots verses electronic voting machines is not Luddism.

It is common sense.

Paper ballots serve a very important function electronic voting machines do not and that is having an auditable election with the paper ballots being physically available for a recount.

The various technologies allowing for the operation of trains, planes and automobiles are at a minimum 100 years old for winged flight and almost 200 years for railways.

Just because something is old does not render it obsolete.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Re: Re: Paper Ballots Please

The various technologies allowing for the operation of trains, planes and automobiles are at a minimum 100 years old for winged flight and almost 200 years for railways.

This might come as a shock, but in the 21st century planes are no longer made of wood, we don’t use metal cranks to start our cars in the morning, and trains don’t burn coal. ALL of them have advanced a great deal in 100+ years, and continue to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Paper Ballots Please

“in the 21st century planes are no longer made of wood”

Some are, you really need to get out more.

“trains don’t burn coal”

Some do, are you really this sheltered?

I see you think being advanced means throwing caution to the wind, but not everyone shares your enthusiasm for wanton recklessness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Paper Ballots Please

Don’t you get a print of you votes or something like that?
I remember reading an article of someone observing the process of comparing paper to computer votes. And when those didn’t match they just added or removed the obviously wrong paper votes.

And as for the convenience part: There is no difference for voters. We have paper votes only here and you go in to voting center, give your ID, get a paper, go into a booth, make an X or two, fold it, and put it in a sealed box. Takes 1-2 min max.

Counting might take a bit longer but first results are usually up 2-3 hours after the centers close.

Anonymous Coward says:

It doesn't take 50 states.

A few precincts will probably do. But Comey is smart enough to know that what he is saying is bullshit. My take on most of what this guy says, is that it’s expectation management.

He must have received his post election assignments and is trying to get ahead of a big workload. Like maybe the Cessna 208s they plan on dispatching to likely riot areas use more fuel than he budgeted for, and so he is trying to calm the herd a little to save operational costs?

Probably cheaper to just buy more billy clubs. But that doesn’t have quite the same optics as micro targeting the “trouble makers” with close air support.

David (profile) says:

So, the FBI is secure because ...

Comey is complete and utter idiot.

A man in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation feels it is duty to convince everyone else to make his job easier because he doesn’t really get security. An agency that entraps citizens because it cannot find terrorists, what better way to spend time than convincing Americans to act against the country so they can arrest them, thus proving that they are protecting America.

Yeah, right.

Ruby says:

(i.e., not computerized and connected to the internet)

……Again, I can’t speak for all states, but I know that Ohio’s voting machines are NEVER connected to the internet and I’m pretty sure that’s standard.

Each machine just runs pre-programmed software and saves the results to memory card (which appears to be a proprietary design). The memory card is located in a port that has a lock (which is different for each machine; no master key) and affixed with a barcoded tamper seal.

The machines have no usb ports at all.

John Mayor says:

NATIONAL ELECTIONS STANDARDS

Yes Mike, I agree!… but, what’s most damnable about what James Comey is offering up, is that it fails to even acknowledge the U.S. Constitutional requirement for EQUAL PROTECTIONS AND EQUAL BENEFITS BEFORE AND UNDER THE LAW!
.
In other words, having each state run a national voting process in such a fragmented fashion… AND WITHOUT A NATIONALLY MANDATED SET OF VOTING STANDARDS!… inevitably leads to a rejection of HARMONIZED PROTECTIONS AND BENEFITS FOR ALL U.S. CITIZENS! Some citizens will receive more protections and benefits in some elements of the process, and others will receive less! AND SO!… THIS SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED IN AMERICA!… AND!… SHOULD FORM THE BASIS OF A FUTURE U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL BATTLE!
.
Politicians acting like spoiled brats at a birthday party, is not a solution to an important issue, such as voting_in those who will lead the country!
.
Please!… no emails!

rebrad (profile) says:

No Credibility

How can I trust a man who couldn’t find any reason to recommend charges against a politician that committed far worse crimes than those who are currently rotting in jail? I’m sure someone will employ this man in the future but not for his credibility or honesty. One might even ask why no charges have been against him for obstruction of justice.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...