Congressman Lamar Smith: US Election Systems Vulnerable To Russian Cyberattack

Hackers targeted voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona this summer. Cybersecurity experts warned the House Science Committee such attacks, concentrated in a few battleground states, could tip the outcome of the presidential election.

By Andrew SchneiderSeptember 14, 2016 10:16 am| , ,

From Houston Public Media

The House Science Committee held hearings Tuesday, focusing on the risk that Russia or other foreign states might try to manipulate the outcome of the presidential election.

The hearing followed a series of cyberattacks on U.S. political targets over the summer. First came the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s systems, releasing e-mails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton just ahead of the party’s nominating convention.

“The attacks on voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona are the latest instances of such attacks, this time with alleged ties to Russia,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of central Texas, chairman of the House Science Committee. “We have yet to take decisive steps to defend ourselves and deter attackers.”

Dan Wallach is a computer scientist and voting machine security expert at Rice University. He testified the U.S. must prepare for the possibility that Russia or other adversaries would try to attack America’s election systems.

“My number one concern is our voter registration databases, because they are online,” Wallach said, “and if an attacker can damage or destroy the voter registration databases, they could disenfranchise a significant number of voters, leading to long lines and other difficulties. The provisional voting process requires filling out affidavits. It’s slow. It takes time. And that wouldn’t work for millions of voters.”

Wallach said such attackers need not go after every county in every state to tip a national election. They would only need to concentrate their efforts in a few battleground states, where a small nudge could have a large impact.