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Experts: Switch Off Wi-Fi and Ditch Paperless Voting Machines

A bipartisan group of former state election specialists, intelligence officials and voting experts have urged local state officials to ditch paperless voting machines as part of a $380m security overhaul.

The funds were released by Congress to help states upgrade their election systems in the wake of Russian cyber-attacks ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed last year that a total of 21 state systems were targeted by Kremlin hackers ahead of the election. Although actual compromises were confined to a small number of states, there are fears that the hackers will use the intelligence they gained to potentially cause greater disruption next time around.

Now a group of experts has signed an open letter to state election officers urging them to follow best practices in replacing paperless voting machines with systems that count a paper ballot. This would crucially preserve a record of the vote itself in case any suspicions are raised.

They also recommended the prohibition of any wireless connectivity on voting machines to limit risk exposure, and that election websites, voter registration systems and election night reporting systems are “defended against threats of intrusion and manipulation.”

The experts also suggested “robust post-election audits in federal elections” by checking a small sample of paper ballots, and argued that officials should be trained in how to incorporate security into election processes.

The group comprises big hitters such as former DHS secretary, Michael Chertoff; former NSA and CIA boss Michael Hayden; former US ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute; cryptography expert Bruce Schneier; former deputy US CTO, Nicole Wong; and many more.

The recommendations chime roughly with those of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced last month, and best practice advice from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as other leading experts.

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