Use of Aging Software on Voting Machines Raises Cybersecurity Concerns
Lawmakers are concerned about the use of out-of-date software on voting systems across the United States, but no new legislation has been passed in both chambers.
In the wake of revelations of Russia’s attempts to hack into American voting machines during the 2016 election, states have invested heavily in new systems with heightened security measures.
There’s just one problem: the software on the new machines is aging out and will soon not be supported with security updates by the company who produces it.
The vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions across the country Windows 7 or an older operating system to program their machines, tally votes, make ballots and report counts to the county, according to an Associated Press analysis published this week.
Windows 7 is set to reach its end of life in less than six months, on Jan. 14. Microsoft will stop providing technical support and producing patches to fix security vulnerabilities, putting many of these systems at risk of being hacked, the AP reported. However, the company said it would offer security updates for an added fee through 2023.
The impending security issues have already earned attention from lawmakers. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) wrote to the federal Election Assistance Commission on July 12 to ask what the agency is doing to “address the looming cybersecurity crisis” caused by aging software.
“The continued use of out-of-date software on voting machines and the computers used to administer elections lays out the red carpet for foreign hackers,” Wyden wrote. “This is unacceptable. Now more than ever, the American people expect that the government is taking the necessary steps to secure our elections from foreign attacks.”
In his request for EAC’s knowledge of which states will likely have outdated software in the 2020 election, Wyden also notes that there are no nationwide, mandatory cybersecurity standards for elections and that the Department of Homeland Security did not collect data on which states used out-of-date software in the 2018 midterms.