Stopping the Next Election Hack

April 25, 2018 9:05 PM0 comments

The Democratic National Committee’s decision to file a massive civil lawsuit against Trump, the Russians and others involved in the collusion to corrupt the outcome the November 2016 presidential election is an important form of life insurance for the ongoing investigation of all this that will insulate it from desperate efforts by others, like Trump, to shut it down.

The Mueller investigation could be scuttled or at least slowed down to a crawl, and with the all-important U.S. midterm elections already in process (for many upcoming primaries ahead of this November), it is imperative that some way be found to push ahead expeditiously because, needless to say, a heck of a lot is at stake.

The most important element of the delays now has to do with whatever the Russians have in place to meddle with this election cycle, and either the public is being kept in the dark, or there’s not that much which is being done to correct the problem.

For one thing, a number of public forums have been occuring in the last year pointing to the reality that it is not that outlandish to think the Russians directly altered votes in key local elections, and that they did so to throw the election to Trump in 2016. It wasn’t just the propaganda, all those ads on Facebook, etc., that ultimately influenced the election, but the ability to hack into voting machines directly, not everywhere, but in enough places to skew the results.

One small public cue about this was the action by the Virginia Department of Elections late last summer to order the urgent replacement of all voting machines lacking the proverbial “paper trail” before the November election. Somebody knew something back then, and the urgent order was not voluntary, but mandatory.

The fact that the Virginia election almost completely overturned the wide Republican majority in the state is circumstantial evidence that whatever was uncovered in Virginia was discovered in time to sanitize that election.

Regrettably, there is the argument out there that the public should be shrouded from such facts, because they will only serve to discourage them from becoming electorally involved. That is very specious, because it is the ability to know what is really going on that engages and activates people, not the opposite.

An election hacking forum held in Orange County, California, last month included specialists on cryptology, such as Josh Benaloh from Microsoft and Alex Halderman from the University of Michigan, who described how malware can be introduced at the level of the voting machine designer and spread to voting machines.

In this context, former CIA chief Michael Hayden warned that the Russians “will be targeting the 2018 election.” Halderman noted how the manipulation of unauditable machines in swing states and districts can work by infecting election management systems and hacking memory cards.

But beyond protecting the machines, themselves, the bigger election issue before us goes to the cultural mindset of the voters, something that not only the Russians, but oligarchs everywhere seeking to undermine the enfranchisement of individuals, are keenly interested and invested in.

How much of the 2016 election was governed by blind prejudice? How many voters cast ballots on behalf of a hatred of one quality or another in a candidate, much more than in favor of public policies that will result in the greatest good?

It was blind, emotionally-charged either misogyny or racism that accounted for a vast number of votes against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic ticket’s legacy of Barack Obama.

Where does the blame lie for this, and are we destined to endure it as a fact in our political life? We can see under Trump now how new legions of young, white and socially-displaced men are taking up military assault weapons to indiscriminately kill others in large numbers. Trump’s hatred enables them. Mindlessness that does not entertain any thoughts of positive improvements in society devolves into rage and violence when it feels trapped.

If America makes it going forward, and it will be a close call, I fear, it will only be through a popular, full-court press aimed at reclaiming the Enlightenment culture and values of our Founding Fathers.

 


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at nfbenton@fcnp.com.

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