Lincoln County voting machines are not hackable

Published 8:54 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lincoln County’s electronic voting machines are unconnected and unaffected by remote-access software that could leave them vulnerable to hacking, the county’s top election official said.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said the county’s approximately 140 electronic voting machines have never been connected to the Internet and are not controlled by an Internet-connected terminal. All votes are counted on the closed system and transferred to an outside computer by USB flash drive for uploading to the secretary of state’s office, he said.

“Our machines are stand-alone, and I program them individually,” Bairfield said. “I’ve always kept our system completely free of the Internet.”

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Lincoln County’s voting machines are manufactured by Election Systems and Software, which said in an April letter to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon it provided pcAnywhere remote connection software on the control terminals of voting machine systems to some clients between 2000 and 2006.

Lincoln County purchased its ESS machines in 2006, Bairfield said.

Symantec, the company that makes pcAnywhere, said in 2012 a hacker had stolen the program’s source code in 2006, leaving it open to possible security flaws the previous six years. Symantec advised pcAnywhere users to disable the software until security updates were released.

ESS is the nation’s top voting machine manufacturer. In 2006, an estimated 60 percent of all votes were cast on ESS machines.

ESS earlier this year said it never installed remote-access software on its election management systems, but told Wyden in its letter it ceased installing pcAnywhere on election systems in 2007 following the passage of new rules by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Wyden told Motherboard — an electronic-focused arm of VICE News that first reported on the issue — the installation of remote-access software on election system terminals “is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.”

“Apparently, we weren’t one of the counties they tried it on,” Bairfield said. “We do not have pcAnywhere.”