State officials question DEF CON vote-hacking experiments

Experiments at the DEF CON hacker conference meant to test the security of voting machines and elections are unrealistic, an organization representing secretaries of state said today.

The hacker conference’s Voting Village kicks off Friday and includes mock elections and voting machines for participants to probe and test for vulnerabilities. But the National Secretaries of State said that set up is not an accurate simulation of a real election.

“Our main concern with the approach taken by DEFCON is that it utilizes a pseudo environment which in no way replicates state election systems, networks or physical security,” the organization said.

Furthermore, it noted, DHS, universities, along with the private sector and others are already seeking out vulnerabilities in election systems and working to ensure the vote is more secure.

“Providing conference attendees with unlimited physical access to voting machines, most of which are no longer in use, does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments before and on Election Day,” they said.

The organization also questioned the value of simulating hacks on election night reporting websites, since those sites would have no effect on vote tallies.

“We are also concerned that creating ‘mock’ election office networks and voter registration databases for participants to defend and/or hack is also unrealistic,” the group said in a statement. “It would be extremely difficult to replicate these systems since many states utilize unique networks and custom-built databases with new and updated security protocols.”

John Walley

John Walley

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