Good Luck to the Judge Who Sealed a Ballot Machine Vulnerability Report in Georgia

Good Luck to the Judge Who Sealed a Ballot Machine Vulnerability Report in Georgia
A Georgia Republican Party poll watcher looks over voting machine transporters being stored at the Fulton County Election Preparation Centre on November 4, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo: Jessica McGowan, Getty Images)

Facing a quintessential damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t scenario, a federal judge in Georgia has moved to seal a 25,000-word report said to outline vulnerabilities in the state’s ballot-marking machines. The decision was seemingly made out of fear that the contents would add fuel to rampant conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election; a topic which is not even broached by its author.

The Daily Beast, reporting the judge’s decision early Friday, said the report, by J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, outlines specific vulnerabilities that, to quote the professor, “allow attackers to change votes despite the state’s purported defences.”

In a signed declaration, Halderman said he’d discovered “multiple severe security flaws” that could be exploited using malware, either with temporary physical access to the machine or by injecting it remotely via election management systems.

Halderman writes: “I explain in detail how such malware, once installed, could alter voters’ votes while subverting all the procedural protections practiced by the State, including accepted testing, hash validation, logic and accuracy testing, external firmware validation, and risk-limiting audits (RLAs). Finally, I describe working proof-of-concept malware that I am prepared to demonstrate in court.”

Outside the courtroom, keeping the public in the dark about a particular computer exploit is not an unusual practice. It gives the responsible party time to fix the flaw before word of it reaches criminals who are certain to take advantage.

Although the report is said to contain no evidence of any manipulation during the 2020 election, in transcripts obtained by the Beast, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg said her decision to seal the report was based on sensitive information it contained and a desire not to fuel controversy. “There are so many other ways to educate the public besides trying to use this case,” the Beast quotes Totenberg saying. “I’m at the end of my rope about that.”

Media experts unanimously agreed that, basically, any decision by Totenberg would fan the conspiratorial flames of the right.

Dominion, the manufacturer of Georgia’s ballot-marking machines, resides at the centre of numerous wide-ranging conspiracy theories largely devised by close supporters and friends of the former president, Donald Trump, whom they’ve sought to reinstall as president, illegitimately. Dominion told the Beast that it welcomes the aide of external researchers in securing its products, but offered no comment regarding Halderman’s report specifically.

Read the full story at the Daily Beast.