The nation’s top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.
The statement [indicates that previous comments they offered on this subject were outright lies. For example] in February …a spokesperson said ES&S had never installed pcAnywhere on any election system it sold. “None of the employees, … including long-tenured employees, has any knowledge that our voting systems have ever been sold with remote-access software,” the spokesperson said.
…ES&S is the top voting machine maker in the country, a position it held in the years 2000-2006 when it was installing pcAnywhere on its systems. The company’s machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ES&S election-management systems.
…Election-management systems are not the voting terminals that voters use to cast their ballots, but are just as critical: they sit in county election offices and contain software that in some counties is used to program all the voting machines used in the county; the systems also tabulate final results aggregated from voting machines.
Software like pcAnywhere is used by system administrators to access and control systems from a remote location to conduct maintenance or upgrade or alter software. But election-management systems and voting machines are supposed to be air-gapped for security reasons—that is, disconnected from the internet and from any other systems that are connected to the internet.
…The presence of such software makes a system more vulnerable to attack from hackers, especially if the remote-access software itself contains security vulnerabilities. If an attacker can gain remote access to an election-management system through the modem and take control of it using the pcAnywhere software installed on it, he can introduce malicious code that gets passed to voting machines to disrupt an election or alter results.
[Sen. Ron] Wyden told Motherboard that installing remote-access software and modems on election equipment “is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.”
…Security researchers discovered a critical vulnerability in pcAnywhere that would allow an attacker to seize control of a system that had the software installed on it, without needing to authenticate themselves to the system with a password. And other researchers with the security firm Rapid7 scanned the internet for any computers that were online and had pcAnywhere installed on them and found nearly 150,000 were configured in a way that would allow direct access to them.
Although Wyden’s office asked ES&S to identify which of its customers were sold systems with pcAnywhere installed, the company did not respond.
“ES&S needs to stop stonewalling and provide a full, honest accounting of equipment that could be vulnerable to remote attacks,” [Wyden]e told Motherboard. “When a corporation that makes half of America’s voting machines refuses to answer the most basic cyber security questions, you have to ask what it is hiding.”