In recent times, elections have been a topic of great debate, online as well as offline. From accusations of meddling in electoral matters hurled at Facebook, to controversies locally in India around electronic voting machines, elections are a heated topic. In response to these allegations, Facebook has said that it doesn’t influence voter sentiment, however, third-party entities such as Cambridge Analytica have been found with questionable intent.
Closer home, the Election Commission of India has stated in the past that its electronic voting machines are reliable and safe. However, a report by Motherboard sheds light on how some voting machines in the United States were vulnerable. The country’s largest manufacturer of electronic voting machines, Election Systems and Software, has admitted in a letter sent in April to Senator Ron Wyden that the company installed remote-access software pcAnywhere on several of its election-management systems (EMS) between 2000 and 2006. This questions the integrity of elections that were conducted during the time these electronic voting machines were in use.
According to the company, its intention was to provide tech support and solutions by remotely troubleshooting issues on the EMS. However, this approach also makes the system vulnerable to hackers. What’s makes this incident graver, are reports of a compromise in pcAnywhere software back in 2006, when hackers stole the source code for the software itself.
While the software integrated election-management systems were only supplied to a few states, it was reported that about 60 percent of ballots casted in 2006 were calculated through them. ES&S has stated that the company stopped installing the software on its new systems after the Election Assistance Commission in US released new voting system standards. The report adds that at least one pcAnywhere integrated system was being used in Venango County, Pennsylvania late in 2011.
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While it’s unclear if these systems were ever tampered with by hackers, having that vulnerability can have a huge impact on elections. The news of the country being subject to these election-management systems does not sit well, considering election hacking is a big controversy surrounding the 2016 Presidential election in United States.