Tech Friday

posted by Brian Thomas - 

  • State election officials are returning to paper ballots:
    • Roughly 30 states allow some form of electronic voting, most for overseas absentee voters
    • Security experts have been warning for some time that hackers could penetrate electronic voting systems
    • Recently leaked top secret NSA report revealed a cyberattack that targeted more than 100 local election officials and software vendors, raising the prospect of an attempt to manipulate votes
    • Princeton University computer science professor Andrew Appel said a cyberattack occurring just days before the election would likely be too late to affect the outcome
    • In 2016, the FBI sent out a "Flash" Alert warning election officials across the country to enhance the security of their systems
    • We've all heard about the Russian meddling
    • There many possible vulnerabilities in the system from voter registration databases, to online voting, to voting machines
    • Some states still use DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) systems that don't have a paper trail. Some of these machines have re-writable flash memory that could be infected with malware
    • States with at least some DREs include New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Delaware, according to Verified Voting
    • A lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania and the state spent nearly 10 years fighting it, while many other states reversed course on DREs
    • Alex Rice, CTO and co-founder of HackerOne, pointed out that slot machines currently undergo more security assurance and regulation than voting machines
    • "A sufficiently motivated adversary would have no shortage of feasible strategies for the compromise voting computers," Rice said
    • Many electronic voting systems run obsolete software such as Windows XP and Microsoft Access and don't get security updates
    • Any system that is connected to a network can be attacked, "and we've seen no evidence that these computers are universally and permanently air gapped," Rice added.
    • Hacked registration databases could also cause voters to be denied the opportunity to vote
    • University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman participated in a project where the public was invited to attack a proposed Internet voting system. Halderman's team took less than 48 hours was to gain access and change every vote
    • Halderman made a video showing how his hacker team even accessed the security cameras to watch the people running the election system. Haldemann said "We don’t have the technology to vote online safely," and "It will be decades more before Internet voting can be secure"
    • "We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security of their votes and provides an avenue for malicious actors to manipulate the voting results," said Neil Jenkins, an Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security official
    • Jeanette Manfra, chief cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, has stated that Russian hackers targeted 21 states’ election systems before the 2016 presidential election. A small number were breaching
    • Manfra also noted that there was no evidence any votes were changed in those systems were changed
    • In light of all this and recent revelations about Russian interference with elections, some states are returning to paper ballots
    • Election officials see paper as reassuring for voters because physical ballots can be recounted if something goes wrong
    • For example, Virginia election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system
    • In Pennsylvania, the Governor ordered county officials to ensure new polling machines can produce a paper record
    • Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to require touch screen polling systems to be replaced with paper
  • Autonomous Uber kills pedestrian in Arizona:
    • Uber, Waymo and others are testing autonomous vehicles in cities around the country
    • These companies claim that autonomous vehicles will be safer than human driven cars
    • This technology is still in its infancy and has recently been exposed to real world driving conditions on public roads
    • Much of the testing of these vehicles has taken place in a piecemeal regulatory environment
    • Arizona invited these companies to test autonomous vehicles on the state's roads with a promise to keep regulation light 
    • Unfortunately, this past Sunday night at roughly 10 p.m., Elaine Herzberg was killed by an autonomous vehicle with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel
    • The woman stepped into the street in Tempe and was killed by the vehicle
    • Sgt. Ronald Elcock from the Tempe PD said a preliminary investigation indicated that the vehicle was moving around 40 miles per hour when it struck Ms. Herzberg
    • Herzberg was walking with her bicycle on the street in dry, clear weather
    • Sgt. Elcock said it did not appear the vehicle (a Volvo XC 90) had slowed down before impact, and the Uber safety driver did not appear to be impaired
    • This is believed to the first pedestrian death caused by an autonomous vehicle
    • Uber immediately suspended testing in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, and said they will work with police
    • Most autonomous vehicle testing occurs with a safety driver in the front seat. But, it can be challenging to suddenly take control at high speed
    • "This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads" said Senator Richard Blumenthal
    • Waymo, an Alphabet company, has been using autonomous vehicles without a safety driver to pick up and drop off passengers in Arizona
    • Waymo’s self-driving cars drove about 350,000 miles and human drivers took control 63 times over the course of nearly a year of testing
    • Uber has not been testing its vehicles long enough be required to release its metrics
  • School bomb threat hoax tied to Minecraft feud
    • Minecraft is a very popular video game that was acquired by Microsoft in 2014
    • By early 2018, over 144 million copies of the game had been sold, making it the second best-selling video game of all time
    • Minecraft allows players to build things with a variety of different cubes, other game activities include exploration, resource gathering and combat
    • It has been reported that feuding Minecraft gamers are behind 24,000 threatening emails sent to more than 400 schools and colleges across the UK
    • The emails claimed bombs would go off unless a cash payment was sent
    • Many schools went on alert and some evacuated their buildings
    • Eventually, police determined that the threats were a hoax
    • The emails were spoofed to appear as if they had been sent by a gaming network known as VeltPvP.com
    • VeltPvP.com is a Minecraft player-versus-player (P-v-P) server, which is a system run by businesses that want sell to in-game to players who are mostly people aged 8 to 18
    • You can learn more about Minecraft here: https://minecraft.net/en-us/
Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Based in Cincinnati, OH, the Brian Thomas Morning Show covers news and politics, both local and national, from a conservative point of view. Read more

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