Behind shuttered doors at a crisis meeting in Richmond on Friday afternoon, the committee heard about specific vulnerabilities recognized after a cybersecurity conference this season in Las Vegas, where hackers revealed they could break into polling devices with comparable ease.
After the July Defcon conference, Virginia’s Department of Elections ordered the state’s IT agency to evaluate the security of touch screens still in usage in the state. Details of that investigation were kept secret, but they made the elections committee to speed up the end of touch screens, which were now listed to be phased out of Virginia polls by 2020.
Most Virginia localities including the city of Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover counties have now transitioned to visual-scan systems, in which natives fill out bubbles on a paper ballot that is filled into a scanner.
In a memo on touch screen devices arranged for the board, the Department of Elections said the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, or VITA, decided that “each device analyzed exhibited material risks to the probity or availability of the election process.”
The key for a touch-screen device used in Virginia was announced after the July hacking conference, the notice said, and one story showed that one vendor with devices in Virginia uses a single password for all devices. The memo also writes that, unlike optical systems, touch covers leave no paper trail that can be used in post-election audits.
Before last year’s official election, Virginia officials emphasized that all touchscreen devices were secure because they aren’t attached to the Internet.
Several localities raised apprehensions about the move, maintaining the integrity of their operations and establishing that they’ll now have little time to buy around for the new equipment to fulfill an insolvent mandate.
Take your time to comment on this article.