Monday, September 11, 2017

Can Russian Steal Elections, Destroy Democracy? Putin Is Certainly Trying-- Next Up: Germany


The GA-06 special election to replace right-wing nut Tom Price race was universally viewed as a referendum on Trump. If Ossoff would have won, the White House and the Kremlin feared that congressional Republicans will abandon Trump and his legislative agenda in droves. So the Kremlin felt around to see if it would be possible steal the Georgia special in similar ways they helped steal swing counties in the Rust Belt. Think I'm kidding? WSB is the biggest TV station in Atlanta. They reported that the FBI investigated a data breach at the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University just before the special election. So? Kennesaw isn't even part of GA-06. It's in the 11th district. But WSB reported that "the state voter data kept by the Center for Election Systems was compromised [and that] the Georgia Secretary of State uses the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State to facilitate elections in all Georgia counties and maintain voting machines... Sources said the breach happened Wednesday night and the hacker made off with millions of voter records."

How big a deal was this? Of course, Putin isn't claiming responsibility. But... a group of technology experts said Georgia should stop using electronic voting machines and switch to paper ballots for the April 18 Special Election. The successfully hacked Center for Election Systems tests and certifies Georgia's voting machines and electronic polling books used to check in voters at polling locations. Employees also format ballots for every election held in the state. In a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), a candidate for Governor in 2018, twenty technology experts and computer science professors affiliated with the national Verified Voting organization said paper ballots will preserve voters' confidence in the results of an upcoming special election to fill Georgia's 6th District congressional seat. The letter said using equipment maintained by the center while it is the focus of a criminal investigation "can raise deep concerns."

Verified Voting, which closely tracks voting systems used throughout the U.S., and other advocacy groups have long expressed concern with Georgia's reliance on voting machines. Barbara Simons, chairwoman of the nonpartisan organization's board, said paper ballots allow voters to ensure their choices are correct and create a trail if there are any questions about the results. It also lets officials do a hand count of the physical ballots, she said.

"Under the circumstances, the only prudent thing to do is make sure voting is done in a secure fashion," Simons said. "This should not be a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats both care about secure elections."
Kemp's office rejected their plea and said the special election would use electronic voting machines-- which it did-- even though the cyberattack could easily have infected the electronic voting machines with a virus that could manipulate vote totals.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported a dust-up over this between Kemp, a highly partisan wing nut who could easily be on Trump's or Putin's payroll, and DuBose Porter, chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, who demanded Kemp accept help from the Department of Homeland Security to get to the bottom of the hack. Kemp, true to form, accused Porter of playing politics while trying to create a "manufactured crisis" to help Democratic candidates. Something of a fascist, Kemp said of the Democrats that "They would love nothing more than for us to flout Georgia law and use paper ballots so they can challenge the results when they lose, but we will not cater to such childish antics."

It turned out to be the most expensive House race in history. The two campaigns, along with outside organizations, spent more than $50 million on the election. Karen Handel won-- 134,799 (51.8%) to 125,517 (48.2%)-- and has turned out to be a terrible congresswoman in every way predicted. ProgressivePunch ties her record for the worst in Congress-- ZERO crucial vote score.

Around the same time that Georgia Republicans were happy to welcome Russian hacking and interference in their elections, Holland was also facing elections. They took a very different approach than the GOP, basically "better safe than sorry."
The tech-savvy country scaled back the use of computers to count votes and opted for an all-paper, all-manual election this month.

...The Dutch government has known about some of the vulnerabilities in the voting software since 2006 and banned electronic voting in 2007, but has been publicly — and frequently — reminded ever since by academics and hackers of vulnerabilities in the software used to count the votes. A decade later, the country still hasn’t come up with a secure tech system to cast and count votes.

It was only after the U.S. blamed Russia for hacking during the presidential election cycle last year that the Netherlands announced it was dropping computers entirely. The country’s almost 13 million voters will line up March 15 at more than 9,000 polling stations to tick the box for their candidate with pencils, and these votes will be counted by hand. It’s unclear how long it will take officials to get it done.

...Dutch officials say the threat extends beyond voting: Politicians’ computers could be hacked and fake news could infiltrate media and blogs, they say.

In early February, Rob Bertholee, head of Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, said his services had identified hundreds of attacks by Russia targeting government systems that were intended to steal confidential documents.
Paper ballots counted manually at every step by volunteers and polling station officials carried final tallies on paper to local communes, which aggregated the tallies by hand and then ran with another piece of paper to one of 20 regional constituency offices, where officials did the same and then rushed to The Hague’s electoral council building to file the results-- on paper.

In the end, Putin's (and Trump's) neo-fascist candidate, Geert Wilders and his party, won just 13.1% of the vote and 20 seats in the 150 seat House. Of 10,563,456 votes cast, Wilder's fascists got just 1,372,941.

The German general election will be in 2 weeks, September 24. The 4 polls released last week showed Angela Merkel's CDU leading the Socialist Party 38-22%, 37-23%, 37-21% and 34-24%. Alexander Gauland's and Alice Weidel's neo-fascist party (AfD) is showing up with between 11% and 9% of the vote. All the other parties have ruled out being in any kind of coalition that includes the fascists, which is being heavily supported by Russians in Germany-- just as Russians in places like south Brooklyn and the Bustleton and Somerto neighborhoods of Philly overwhelmingly backed Trump in the U.S. election. Their loyalties are with Putin, not with Merkel's CDU. Ironically Russian-Germans-- around 2.5 million of them-- were once considered the Christian Democrats’ most loyal constituency. Many have switched their allegiance to the AfD, attracted by its pro-Kremlin stance and hard line on Muslim refugees."

Meanwhile, the Kremlin's propaganda arm, RT, calls Russian meddling in Germany's election "a boogeyman." A recent report from Reuters cited "thousands of cyber attacks from Russian IP addresses." And on Friday the Daily Beast warned that Germany's election software in dangerously hackable.
When it comes to the growing specter of election hacking, there is one form of attack that causes far more concern that the rest: Could hackers access the ballot count itself and directly manipulate the number of votes cast in favor of one candidate?

Security researchers in Germany have found that it’s possible to do exactly that.

The hacking collective Chaos Computer Club (CCC) has uncovered a selection of serious vulnerabilities in some of Germany’s voting software.

“By infecting large-scale, we could have changed every single submitted result,” Linus Neumann, a CCC spokesperson told The Daily Beast. This software is not the same as that used in U.S. elections, but the discovery highlights the serious risk hackers can pose to voting infrastructure as U.S. authorities try to assess the exact damage hackers caused during the 2016 election.

The issues revolve around a piece of software called “PC-Wahl,” which the researchers say Germany has used in national, state, and municipal elections for decades.

PC-Wahl is used for the “recording, calculation, graphical presentation, reporting and statistical follow-up of election results,” according to a Google translated version of the product’s website.

Neumann explained that the researchers were able to take over the server that provides software updates to PC-Wahl and insert a malicious program that manipulates the votes.

“Neither the software itself, nor any of the transmitted results are authenticated properly,” he said. Updating the software is also a mandatory process before each use, Neumann added, meaning that if a hacker surreptitiously inserted a piece of malware, it could rapidly spread to target machines.

Targeting a piece of software’s update mechanism is a novel, but fairly established way of attacking systems. Earlier this year, hackers attatched their own ransomware, which locks down victim’s computers, to an update of Ukrainian financial software. Victims included shipping giant Maersk.

Germany has faced suspected Russian hackers in the past. In 2015, hackers targeted the country’s Bundestag, or parliament. Germany’s domestic security agency said Russian military intelligence was responsible for the attack. Judging by forensic evidence, the hackers behind the Bundestag breach were the same as those responsible for attacking the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016. WikiLeaks went on to distribute a cache of stolen emails and documents from the DNC.

In the U.S., likely Russian hackers have also targeted companies and organizations within the election supply chain. In June, The Intercept reported that hackers sent spoofed emails to VR Systems, a Florida-based provider of voting services and equipment, days before the election. Last week, a New York Times report revealed hackers breached at least two other providers of critical election services. During a hearing earlier this year, former FBI Director James Comey said Russian hackers targeted “hundreds” of entities.

There is no convincing evidence that hackers directly manipulated U.S. votes by targeting voting software or machines themselves during the 2016 election. Previous academic research has found some voting machines are vulnerable to malware that could manipulate votes.

During the annual DEF CON hacking conference this year, researchers were given free-rein to dig through and probe a variety of voting machines used in U.S. elections. One hacker successfully compromised a machine in a matter of hours.

CCC hackers who worked on the German software released a selection of tools so others may be able to replicate or build on their results. One tool can be used to swap votes for one party to another.
The Trump Regime has downplayed Russian electoral threats and have been-- at best-- "unconcerned."

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At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you state, Georgia's voting has been suspect for years. The 2002 election in which Saxby Chambliss defeated, apparently, Max Clelland looked very funny to observers at the time. Fifteen years later, with no proof, you are allegedly Georgia Republicans must be in league with Trump or Putin. Why would that be any kind of logical conclusion? Seems to me the logical conclusion if there was cheating is that Georgia Republicans know how to manipulate votes and continue to do so.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous ronnie mitchell said...

Gawd the DWT site is starting to sound like Rachel 'Russians are EVERYWHERE!'Maddow on steroids.
The Joe McCarthy crap has been debunked many times, with the best being the VIP Report that The Nation finally recognized. I thought the nonsense would end after that one at least but the DWTs is hanging on to it like Hillary Clinton and her Bernie Bros. bs.
Trump bombs Syria, ramps up sanctions on Russia and yet he is in the pocket of Putin.
Good grief this is as bad ad The Intercept's recent article linking Assad with the white nationalists in Virginia.
Breitbart you have comeptition.

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:20 is correct. 2:27 has a point also.

I have read many different accounts of how putin/Russia fucked with our elections. some have been compelling. some.. not so much. So far, DWT hasn't quoted any of the ones I consider compelling (that I can tell).

But here's the thing: Any election using networked voting machines OR variables in polling places and/or machines OR uses networked servers to tabulate totals in any way at all... are ripe to be hacked. That's just the world we live in. The internet, as handy as it is, is about as secure as a saliva-soluble strawberry-flavored chastity belt. Anyone wishing their shit to be secure will NOT use internet-enabled anything unless they have paid a shit-ton of money and hired the very best (not Russian) security people and software to make it so.
Neither party has done or demanded this... or ever will.

Wanna no why?

Cuz they reserve the right to fuck with our elections for their own ends. that's why.


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