1(630)802-8605 Ravi.das@bn-inc.net

As I have mentioned many a time, I have never seen a Presidential administration so mired down in controversy.  Although I do my best to remain apolitical, I am just fed up with all of it.  There does not go by a day when you don’t hear something new happening about Trump.  But, I don’t listen to the news anymore.  If anything, I have nothing but the utmost respect for his wife, Melania, for her low key profile as a First Lady and for putting up with Trump’s pure rubbish.

But I will give Trump credit for two things:  1)  The tax cuts, and 2) The upcoming talks with the North Korean regime.  Trump has the greatest opportunity ever to seize on a moment in time that no other President has captured.  But does he deserve the Nobel Prize for it?  Bluntly put, HELLO NO.

Give that award instead to some middle class working American who has had to made it through rough times.  In my opinion, the Presidents that I have the greatest respect for are Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  To a certain degree, even Obama gets some respect here as well.  OK, enough of the political gripes.

But, this actually serves as a great segway to what the topic of this blog is about.  As we know, the2018 midterm elections are coming up, and yes, there is hope amongst hope that the Dems will take over the house.  But, as we vote, there is something that we do not pay attention to:  Security.  Believe it or not, voting booths and polling stations have the potential to be amongst of the greatest vulnerabilities in terms of a Cyber attack.

The last time I voted, which was back in 2016, the only levels of Security that were offered were just merely checking my driver’s license to confirm my identity.  Although where I live at has a very low crime rate, the driver’s license is one of the worst forms of Security documents that can be used, for the primary reason that it can be quite easily forged and duplicated.

But, there are other threats as well, such as hacking into the databases after the ballots have been electronically scanned in, tampering with the e-Voting terminals, potential bribery with election officials (this is a rare circumstance here in the United States, but in the developing nations, such as those in Africa primarily, it is a huge problem), Identity Theft, etc.  You name it, that threat will exist in the voting landscape as it would in any other environment that I have written about.

But, given the screw ups of this present Administration, there is heightened fear (probably at levels that we have never seen before) for a major Cyber attack to occur.  This is a lot easier to happen now, because most polling stations now make use of e-Voting machines in order for the voter to cast their ballot.  This makes sense of course, because it greatly speeds up the tallying process and makes the overall voting experience an efficient one.

Biometrics has also been called upon as a means of having a Two Factor Authentication (2FA) at the voting places.  The most commonly used modalities are those of Fingerprint Recognition, Hand Geometry Recognition, and to a certain degree, depending upon the geographic location, even Facial and Iris Recognition are being used as well.  The reason that they are not used as much is because there are still Privacy Rights issues associated with  them, and resistance amongst the American public.

In response to all of this, the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced that 26 states have requested $209,638,865, or 55 percent of the $380 million from Help American Vote Act (HAVA) funds to improve election Cyber security levels ahead of the 2018 midterm election.  This is a huge chunk of change, and in fact, it is probably the most that has ever been requested to date yet.

But quite surprisingly, it is highly expected that all voting jurisdictions in all of the 50 states will request some sort of financial assistance in order to beef up their Cyber security lines of defense.  This is according to EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks.  By Federal law, the states have to match up to at least 50% of the funding requests that each jurisdiction request.

Apparently, the formula for determining this allocation of money is determined by using a voting age population formula as described in Section 101 of the HAVA legislation.

My view on all of this?  Yea, I think it is great that money is being spent to increase the current levels of Cyber security, but how do we really know that the money will actually be spent for these purposes, and not end up in the hands of the crooked politicians?  Look at our own state of IL.  We have had money given to us right and left, and where did it go?  The state is totally bankrupt, and in fact it is deemed to be one of the most corrupt states ever.

Is there a system of checks of balances in place in order to ensure that the money will be given into the right hands?  But more importantly, what assurances do we have, as the tax payer, that our money will also be spent wisely on the right Security tools that are needed?  Has there been some sort of assessment conducted to determine what tools and even people are needed?

In the end, it is quite easy to throw money at the states, but remember, as I have said before, in order to have great levels of Cyber security, you need a combination of  both human vigilance and the right technology.  You also can’t have more of one than the other, they both have to come into balance.  In other words, think of this as a balancing scale.

Human vigilance is on one side, and the Security technology is on the other.  The scale has to come into a state of equilibrium in order to help ensure that any type or kind of Cyber threat can be thwarted off.

Another area where I have concern is if any of the money is also going to be spent on Security awareness training for the voting officials?  In other words, do they know what to look for in case a Cyber attack could be potentially under way?  Do they know to the best of their ability if they can identity a fraudulent voter?  Do they know how to absolutely use new forms of Security technology if this money will be spent on it?

These are just some of the questions as well as many more that need to be answered by all of the voting jurisdictions.  Elections are only five months away, but time does tick by pretty quickly…..