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Truths About USBs Used in Elections

April 27, 2020

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the news talk about election security?

Most of us think about Election Day at our local polling place and how the voting machines are protected that day. In reality, there is so much happening before and after Election Day to secure elections.

Why should you care?

Because every time you head to the polls, you should be confident that your vote will be accurately counted.

So how does this work?

Elections are an ecosystem that involves many different elements throughout the pre-election, election day and post-election stages. The removable media or USB flash drives are used in each step of the process to safeguard election information and results.

Infographic showing the cycle of a USB drive, from Formatting to Election Prep, to Election Day, to Election Night, and back to formatting

USB flash drives are used three ways in elections:

  • To load election information on to voting machines.
  • To collect and store election results.
  • To transport election results after polls close to the election office.

Some things you should know about these USBs:

election_USB_icon_fact_1There are multiple layers of encrypted security on the data, including unique encryption keys for every election.
election_USB_icon_fact_2ES&S customers use only industrial-grade USB flash drives made in the U.S. by a US-based company. They are the same quality of flash drives used by the U.S. military and aeronautics industries.
election_USB_icon_fact_3Only these specific USBs will be recognized by voting machines and the election system.
election_USB_icon_fact_4The election information, like the ballot layout, is saved to the secure flash drives using a hardened computer. This hardened computer is only used for election-related tasks, accepts only authorized USBs, restricts user access to authorized users and prevents public internet connectivity.
election_USB_icon_fact_5The USB flash drives (and ES&S voting machines, by the way) contain a unique 256-bit encryption key to ensure that only information specific to that election may be loaded on the machine. This encryption is so powerful; it would take the world’s fastest supercomputer millions of years to crack.
election_USB_icon_fact_6If there is any indication of attempted tampering, the machine and flash drive are taken out of service.
election_USB_icon_fact_7USB flash drives are transported by two or more people in sealed bags, with the serial number of each device logged every step of its journey before, during and after an election.
election_USB_icon_fact_8After the election, election officials can use a utility to restore their USBs to their known factory state. Through this reformatting, election officials can be confident that the USB is clean and ready to reuse.


Want to learn even more about the safeguards in place to protect your vote?

Well, you should probably click here and watch our USB Security video. And then, after you watch that, you’ll definitely want to click here and watch our Layers of Security video, which provides tons of valuable information about the safeguards in place to help ensure the secure storage, transfer and operation of election equipment used throughout elections!