Getting the facts straight
Every election reinforces the importance of voting as the foundation of America’s democracy. Nothing is more important to ES&S than maintaining the integrity of the voting process. By understanding the real risks to elections, we strengthen our ability to protect democracy.
Let’s get the facts straight –
Have America’s voting machines been hacked in the past?
While the threats are very real, there’s no evidence that any vote in a U.S. election has ever been compromised by a cybersecurity breach. To date, the totality of security measures — such as voting machines never being connected to the internet, tamper-resistant seals, audits, along with more advanced technology found in newer equipment — provides for an environment that would be difficult to compromise. As threats become more sophisticated, so must voting machines and the nation’s entire voting infrastructure.
Can we trust ES&S voting machines?
Voting machines provided by ES&S are certified by the federal Elections Assistance Commission and undergo robust testing for accuracy, reliability, usability and security. ES&S voting machines are never connected to the internet. There is no evidence of a voting machine being compromised by a cybersecurity incident in an election. Voting machines are used and deployed in a decentralized manner across the nation’s 10,000 voting jurisdictions. This decentralization greatly diminishes the chance or impact of a large-scale attack. While there is no evidence of any hacking of any voting machine currently in use as it is used in an election, as threats become more sophisticated, so must voting machines and the nation’s entire voting infrastructure.
Can voting machines be hacked?
Voting machines have been hacked at conferences and demonstrations, but these environments do not reflect an actual election scenario where additional layers of physical and cyber security are always in place. These measures include, among other steps, voting machines never being connected to the internet, tamper-resistant seals, audits, along with more advanced technology found in newer equipment.
Why are modems allowed to transmit results?
Where used, cellular modems are only used to transmit unofficial results. Final official results are physically uploaded at election headquarters prior to final certification. The decision to use a modem to transmit unofficial results is made by each jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions choose to use a modem to transmit the unofficial results as quickly as possible, and some choose to receive the unofficial votes once the machines are collected from the polling places.
Are older voting machines secure?
Older equipment is protected by multiple layers of physical and technical security including tamper-resistant seals and controlled access, and it is never connected to the internet. That said, newer equipment has more advanced technology and generally speaking is more secure.
Are elections systems providers being transparent?
ES&S values transparency and works closely with all levels of the U.S. government, academia and other experts to ensure the integrity of America’s voting. ES&S has invited and welcomed numerous experts and government officials, including critics, to see its operations first hand and to discuss improvements. ES&S actively collaborates with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has all its equipment certified through the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, and willingly takes part in many other collaborations with groups and individuals interested in protecting America’s voting system.
Does ES&S use independent testing of its voting equipment?
Yes, in multiple ways. ES&S voluntarily adheres to the Federal Testing Program conducted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a federal agency created by the Bi-Partisan Help America Vote Act of 2002. Under the EAC, ES&S submits all its systems to Voting System Test Laboratories accredited by NIST. These labs perform tests in accordance with the federal voting system standards. Layered upon the reviews conducted under the Federal Test Program, several states also engage independent firms to audit the security of voting machines as part of the certification examination process in their states. In addition, over the past year, ES&S has engaged two cybersecurity firms to conduct independent third-party reviews, including penetration testing and source code reviews.
Does ES&S support security enhancements to the nation’s election infrastructure?
ES&S fully supports paper-based voting technology coupled with post-election audits. ES&S supports the creation or adoption of industry standards and guidelines which further strengthen the nation’s critical election infrastructure. ES&S has taken multiple steps to bolster security.
Are you aware of any data breaches or other cybersecurity incidents in which an attacker gained unauthorized access to your internal systems, corporate data or customer data?
No, we are not aware of any cybersecurity incidents in which an attacker gained unauthorized access to ES&S internal systems or corporate data.
Do you have a process in place to receive and respond to unsolicited vulnerability reports from cybersecurity researchers and other third parties?
Yes, ES&S utilizes its internal corporate information security staff to receive, evaluate and act upon, as necessary, unsolicited vulnerability reports from cybersecurity researchers and other third parties. In addition ES&S maintains a link on its website for the purpose of receiving and responding to reports and/or inquiries related to security.
Do any of your systems currently deployed have any kind of remote access capability, and, if so, how many?
No ES&S product or system has remote access capability; ES&S does not provide this capability.
ES&S systems in the past included remote-access capability—why?
More than a decade ago, ES&S, along with others in this industry and many other industries, provided software upon customer request for customer workstations—not voting machines—for troubleshooting purposes.
While no known issues arose with this practice, ES&S has not provided this capability since 2007 and never provided it for voting machines.
How big is ES&S?
ES&S serves about 3,000 of the nation’s more than 10,000 voting jurisdictions.
Who owns ES&S?
ES&S is a privately held American company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.
Why trust a private company with our nation’s elections?
The elections infrastructure, like the nation’s power grid, is made up of public and private partnerships. As DHS says in describing critical infrastructure, there is a shared responsibility among multiple stakeholders because neither the government nor the private sector alone has the knowledge, authority, or resources to do it alone.
I understand ES&S ballot marking systems use barcodes. Can barcodes really be trusted?
Barcodes are a trusted, tested, universal technology used in a variety of ways across many different industries to improve safety, accuracy, speed and efficiency. DMVs, pharmacies, hospitals, banks and food manufacturers all use barcodes. Vote counting machines (called tabulators) read barcodes in the same way they read the oval positions on a paper ballot—so a summary card with barcodes contains the same data as on a hand-marked ballot. Because barcodes offer a reliable way to accurately read information, the technology all but eliminates the possibility of human error (e.g. poorly marked ballots, misinterpretation of voter intent). Displayed along with human-readable text, summary cards with barcodes are fully auditable.