Top Dem Fears Putin’s Hackers May Target America’s Voting Machines

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A top Democrat worries that July’s hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system could be a taste of what might happen come November if a foreign actor compromises the country’s vulnerable digital voting technology.

Sen. Thomas Carper wants Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson to make preventing such an election disaster a top priority. Carper, a Delaware Democrat, is ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

“As you are aware, recent reports indicate the Russian Federal Security Service and Russian military intelligence may have been involved in the recent cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” Carper told Johnson in a letter to Johnson Monday.

Carper wants Johnson to designate the country’s election process as “critical infrastructure” so DHS can devote more resources to the country’s “ability to prevent and to respond to potential cyberattacks originating both from inside or outside our borders.”

If the reports about Russian involvement in the DNC hack are accurate, Carper told Johnson, “such an intrusion raises concerns about the ability of foreign actors to interfere in the American political process during the upcoming election, including through cyberattacks targeting electronic voting machines or the information technology of state and local election officials.”

Wikileaks released 20,000 emails from DNC officials’ accounts days before the Democratic party’s convention in Philadelphia. The leak was instrumental in forcing the resignation of then-DNC Chairman, Rep. Deborah Wasserman-Schultz of Florida.

The DHS presently recognizes 16 “critical infrastructure” sectors, defined as a system or industry so vital its destruction would jeopardize national security, public health or the economy. Those sectors include energy, health care and defense, to name a few. Johnson suggested the possibility of adding the country’s voting systems to that list last week.

Carper didn’t elaborate on the possibility of politically motivated U.S. residents committing voter fraud by exploiting vulnerabilities Carper said have long plagued U.S. election technology.

As early as 2004, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team found ways “malicious” actors could modify vote totals and the Argonne National Laboratory and the Virginia State Board of Elections found people could penetrate voting machines physically or wirelessly without detection, Carper said.

“Election security is critical, and a cyberattack by foreign actors on our election systems could compromise the integrity of our voting process,” Carper wrote. “The American public should have confidence in our current election systems and the efforts of state and local governments to make the risk of voter fraud and a successful cyberattack remote.”

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