Case in point, according to Jefferson, is the recent demonstration by a team of students led by University of Michigan professor Alex Halderman. The group managed to easily hack into an internet-based system for overseas and military voters that the District of Columbia planned to test in the November election. Along the way, the team also found evidence the system had been penetrated by both Iranian and Chinese hackers.
"One of the great fears in an internet election is that you are exposing our votes to manipulation by foreign powers," said Jefferson. "I just consider this to be a major national security risk; a totally unnecessary, needless risk and it's shocking to me that election officials turn away from this. They don't want to hear it, and they certainly don't want to do anything about it."
"As we moved to mechanical voting machines a century ago we moved into the era of Dilbert's boss administering technology he didn't understand," said Douglas Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa and a scientific expert serving on the federal Election Assistance Commission's Technical Guidelines Development Committee. "We're still there. We've advanced the technology and Dilbert's boss knows more now than he did a century ago. But he still doesn't know enough to master the system he's running."
Jones says elections officials in D.C. deserve a lot of credit for allowing the pilot system to be opened up to public test before actually using it in an election, even if it was done late and exposed serious problems. But he fears these kinds of precautions aren't being taken in smaller municipalities around the country with limited funds.
"The people in the D.C. election office who were administering the servers were people who have a lot of experience administering servers in the closed world of classical elections with no internet connections and no outsiders to deal with," said Jones."This is evidence that the election office wasn't anywhere near up to administering a machine that was connected to the public internet. And the Washington D.C. people actually have a staff of professionally-trained people who know what they're doing. You can't say that in your typical county. The large, urban counties have resources in their election offices that average county doesn't have."
On-site electronic voting machines also risky