Nation

To Deter Foreign Hackers, Some States May Also Be Deterring Voters : NPR

Election officials across the country have worked hard to prioritize security ahead of November’s midterms, but some strategies could have the unintended effect of sometimes making voting harder.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Election officials across the country have worked hard to prioritize security ahead of November’s midterms, but some strategies could have the unintended effect of sometimes making voting harder.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A number of states are blocking web traffic from foreign countries to their voter registration websites, making the process harder for some U.S. citizens who live overseas to vote, despite the practice providing no real security benefits.

On its face, the “geo-targeting” of foreign countries may seem like a solid plan: election officials around the country are concerned about foreign interference after Russia’s efforts leading up to the 2016 election, so blocking traffic to election websites from outside the United States might seem like an obvious defense starting point.

But cybersecurity experts and voting rights advocates say it’s an ineffective solution that any hacker could easily sidestep using a virtual private network, or VPN, a commonly-used and easily-available service. Such networks allow for a computer user to use the Internet and appear in a different location than they actually are.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist for the Center For Democracy & Technology. “Any concerted attacker would use a VPN, they’re really cheap. If anything, this is just marketing.”

Media reports began circulating over the past two months that states were blocking international traffic to their sites. The Philadelphia Inquirer specifically indicated in a report last week that at least five states were blocking international traffic to their election sites.

NPR attempted to access the online registration sites of each state that allows online registration, using an international IP address based in Brazil. At least nine states — Kansas, Vermont, Oregon, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Mexico, Georgia, and Pennsylvania — did not allow access from the international IP address, but allowed access from a U.S. IP address.

Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Oregon confirmed to NPR that they did block all or some international traffic to the voter registration portion of their websites, and Georgia and Pennsylvania confirmed the same to other outlets. As of Thursday, the other states had not yet responded to requests for comment.

“Ensuring the cyber security of our online systems requires a balancing act between voter access and defending our election systems from bad actors,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Although the “geo-blocking” strategy may not actually have any effect on a hacker with easy access to a VPN, it could have an effect on U.S. citizens living outside the country who are eligible to vote. The Federal Voting Assistance Program estimates there are 3 million such citizens, which is roughly the same number of eligible voters as a mid-sized state.

Turnout for overseas voters is notoriously low. In 2016, less than 7 percent of eligible non-military voters residing outside of the country returned ballots, according to FVAP.

“That’s probably a kindergarten level of security, thinking you can target parts of the world geographically,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, the CEO of the nonprofit Overseas Vote. “It’s so ineffective I don’t even know how to start.”

Federal law requires states to allow overseas voters to request an absentee ballot online. And Dzieduszycka-Suinat said the Internet has “completely transformed” the voting possibilities for overseas voters, as it’s the “most efficient way” for non-residents to get information and request a ballot.

In every case where overseas voters may be blocked from websites, there are, however, still ways they can get their ballots. But it makes the process more complicated when voters are unable to register the same way they would be able to in the U.S.

Oregon Election Director Stephen Trout acknowledged the shortcomings of geo-blocking, which he said has been going on in his state since at least 2009.

On a part of the state’s website that isn’t blocked to overseas visitors, voters are told that if they can’t access the elections website, they should call the state or their local election official. Trout said his office received a handful of calls about the issue last week, and that they usually receive three or four dozen each election cycle.

He said his office will continue to re-evaluate security strategies.

“As hackers get more sophisticated, we need to look at other ways,” said Trout. “There’s a lot different than there was five years ago, and it will be a lot different in another five years.”

Condos, the Vermont secretary of state, said his office has only been contacted by a few overseas voters in connection with the decision. He added that if it becomes a “significant barrier” for overseas voters, his office may also reassess the geo-blocking.

As for now, overseas Vermont voters that need to register to vote can send a voter registration form to their municipal clerk by mail or email, or they can register through the federal government.

In New Mexico and Pennsylvania, even the area where registered voters can request an absentee ballot is blocked for visitors from overseas IP addresses.

“Voters can give us a call, we can walk you through it,” said Alex Curtas, the communications director for the New Mexico Secretary of State.

But it just adds another, sometimes confusing, step for a subset of voters who already turn out at a low rate, said Hall, of the Center For Democracy & Technology.

“Every click you put in front of people – you have a precipitous drop in continuing the process,” Hall said. “They have a ton of barriers already, and this is another one of them.”

NPR Brazil Correspondent Phillip Reeves contributed reporting to this story.


Source link

health news headlines provided courtesy of Medical News Today.

Advertisement

Advertisement Small

Flickr

  • Paranoids
  • prolog
  • Just before rain
  • 86 Fahrenheit
  • Vivian
  • badinage
  • ceinturon
  • Zuzanas
  • Xandra

About Author

Follow Me

Collaboratively harness market-driven processes whereas resource-leveling internal or "organic" sources. Competently formulate.

ThemeForest

Collaboratively harness market-driven processes whereas resource-leveling internal or "organic" sources. Competently formulate.

  • Johannes - Multi-concept Personal Blog & Magazine WordPress theme
  • Opinion - Modern News & Magazine Style WordPress Theme
  • Trawell - WordPress travel theme
  • Pinhole - WordPress Gallery Theme for Photographers
  • Typology - Text Based Minimal WordPress Blog Theme
  • Gridlove - Creative Grid Style News & Magazine WordPress Theme
  • Vlog - Video Blog / Magazine WordPress Theme
  • Herald - News Portal & Magazine WordPress Theme
  • Sidewalk - Elegant Personal Blog WordPress Theme

View more

View More Job Search Results

Calendar

June 2019
M T W T F S S
« May    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Pages

Recent Comments

    RSS Meks Blog

    • Using Google Trends for market research to leverage your content creation ideas June 12, 2019
      Did you know you can use Google Trends for market research and target your customer needs, tailor content strategy, in a much better way? The post Using Google Trends for market research to leverage your content creation ideas appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • How WordPress can help you to build and increase brand awareness June 6, 2019
      How can you build and improve brand awareness with WordPress and what steps are needed in that strategy? The post How WordPress can help you to build and increase brand awareness appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • Starting a photography blog: The secrets successful photo bloggers won’t tell you May 30, 2019
      Is starting a photography blog the next step for your personal branding and getting out there with your work? Sure is! And here’s how you can do it! The post Starting a photography blog: The secrets successful photo bloggers won’t tell you appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • 5+ best forum plugins for WordPress to build a loyal community in 2019 May 22, 2019
      Looking for the best forum plugin for WordPress to build a community and keep them engaged? Let us save you the time and choose among these 6 we recommend. The post 5+ best forum plugins for WordPress to build a loyal community in 2019 appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • Easily setup Facebook instant articles for your WordPress website (plus tips & tricks ) May 16, 2019
      In case you still haven’t set up Facebook Instant Articles for your WordPress blog or site, here’s why we recommend you to do it. The post Easily setup Facebook instant articles for your WordPress website (plus tips & tricks ) appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • 8 things people usually miss before starting a blog May 8, 2019
      Have you ever wondered what things need to be done before starting a blog or do you think it’s just writing and not much else? Boy, are you in for a surprise! The post 8 things people usually miss before starting a blog appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • WordPress RSS feed plugin – 7 recommendations 2019 edition May 1, 2019
      Wondering whether you need a WordPress RSS feed plugin or not? Let us show you what beautiful things you can make with it! The one thing people nowadays tend to say is that emails and RSS feeds are dead. A fact that couldn’t be more from the actual truth. Knowing that we live in a […]
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • How to make money as a travel blogger (10 tips you can start using today) April 23, 2019
      Have you ever wondered how to make money as a travel blogger, especially when you see how many are out there doing it? Here are at least ten ways you can, too! The post How to make money as a travel blogger (10 tips you can start using today) appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • 6+ video marketing tips to improve your vlogging [2019 edition] April 17, 2019
      Wondering what would be some of the best video marketing tips that can help you step up your vlogging game? We’ve got you covered! The post 6+ video marketing tips to improve your vlogging [2019 edition] appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic
    • 18 top Google Chrome extensions for WordPress April 10, 2019
      Looking for the most useful WordPress Chrome extensions to make your site more functional and engaging? Take a look at our list of top Chrome addons to use! The post 18 top Google Chrome extensions for WordPress appeared first on Meks.
      Ivana Cirkovic

    Text

    Distinctively utilize long-term high-impact total linkage whereas high-payoff experiences. Appropriately communicate 24/365.

    Archives