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Rick Forno on preventing cyber attacks to election tech

August 29, 2016 7:20 PM
This story first appeared on and was written by Megan Hanks.

With the presidential election just a few months away, and a recent hack against the Democratic National Committee making headlines worldwide, many are asking tough questions about the security of the U.S. election infrastructure.

Rick Forno, assistant director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity and director of the Cybersecurity Graduate Program at UMBC, explains how electronic ballot boxes are vulnerable to attacks, and some tactics that the U.S. can use to secure the voting machines and protect the data it collects, in The Conversation (also published by Salon and U.S. News).

“One of the most obvious, direct ways to affect a country’s election is to interfere with the way citizens actually cast votes,” Forno writes.

The U.S. electronic voting network is spread out across the country, with many points of potential entry, which heightens the vulnerabilities of the system. Increasing risk of a hack to impact an election, one factor that has changed recently  “is the ability of individuals, governments, militaries and criminal or terrorist organizations to use internet-based tools—commonly called cyberweapons—not only to gather information but also to generate influence within a target group,” says Forno.” But implementing best practices for cybersecurity, data collection, and information access can make it “more difficult for adversaries to conduct cyber mischief,” he suggests.

When citizens go to the polls to vote, they expect that the equipment, process, and people involved to be secure and trustworthy, as a cornerstone of the democratic system. “That trust must not be broken by complacency, lack of resources, or the intentional actions of a foreign power,” Forno writes.

Read the full article “How vulnerable to hacking is the US election cyber infrastructure?,” in The Conversation. He also did an interview with BYU Radio about the possibility of the voting systems in the U.S. being hacked. Listen to the full interview “Hacked Voting Machines, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Fitness,” on BYU Radio.

Image: Rick Forno. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11.
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