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Experts Weigh In On The Security Of Florida's Voting System

Aug 21, 2018
Originally published on August 21, 2018 3:20 pm

As Florida prepares for primaries on Aug. 28, issues around voting security and fraud have been front and center. Earlier this month, Sen. Bill Nelson claimed Russian hackers had gained access to valuable data on state voters. And two weeks ago, a story broke about an 11-year-old hacking into a replica of Florida’s elections website. 

On Sundial, Christina White, Supervisor of Elections for Miami-Dade County, said she knows about Nelson's remarks, but that she isn't aware of any "possible or actual compromise of election systems in the state of Florida." She addressed the concerns Florida voters might have about election security. 

Later in the show, Tarek Sayed, a Cybersecurity professor from the University of Miami School of Business and Law offered one solution: blockchain. He believes there are a number of steps the state can take to better secure our election systems from cyber attack, and that the known transaction system used on Bitcoin might be a more secure alternative.

WLRN:  Within the last couple of weeks there was this hackathon and there was a story about an 11-year old that breaks into a system that mimics Florida's system. What should we make of that?

Christina White: To my knowledge it was a replica of the website that was hacked. So when you do a replica of a website you're actually not able to replicate properly all of the security measures that are in place on that original website. Another more important point is that is not where the election results are stored. The way that all departments around the state tabulate results is through our centralized tabulation system, which is a completely closed network with no with no internet access, which means that there's no ability to hack or compromise that system. After those results are cumulative, certified and reconciled, that is when they are posted on the various elections departments websites and on the state website. This is not tampering with or affecting the actual election results that we would have here in our centralized tabulation system.

Are the voting systems online when people are voting?

C.W.: They are not. There is no online or internet connection whatsoever. It's a completely closed network that doesn't have any sort of outside access.

I want to get a sense from you: how secure do you think U.S. voting machines are from cyber attacks?

Tarek Sayed: I think if the voting machine has any communication device to it, that being a connection to the internet or a connection through a modem, it does have vulnerabilities -- the software itself. I mean there is no way that we can say that something is 100 percent secure.

You just returned from a conference in Washington D.C. over the weekend focused on the future of blockchain technologies and law. This is the ledger system used to track bitcoin transactions, but you argue it could have a place in the voting systems?

T.S.: It is secure that the record is immutable, meaning it cannot be changed or altered, and that's the security aspect of the blockchain. There are people who don't think it is a good idea but I think that's the technology that we should use, now it might not be 100 percent foolproof but nothing is.

What about before you get into the system could people alter information addresses, could they alter the information before it goes through the system?

T.S.: Well, the information is not going to get into the system unless it gets sent as a blockchain transaction or on the blockchain ledger.

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