Are hackers targeting Pennsylvania’s election?


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Jerry Feaser needed just five minutes to open up a voting machine. The head of elections in Dauphin County also took time to spotlight its safety features.

“There’s a zip tie on the outside and another zip tie seal here and on the open and close polls buttons that let the judge of elections know whether this machine’s been tampered with,” Feaser said.

He is confident, despite intensifying speculation that there could be chicanery, that votes for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and the rest of the candidates will be accurately and fairly counted.

“If there is a question as to the results, a challenge, we can print an audit and can tell you how many times each one of these buttons has been pushed,” Feaser said as he pointed to the electronic ballot voters will see on Nov. 8. “That is the critical feature.”

Many say Pennsylvania is critical to the 2016 presidential election’s outcome. Think Florida in 2000 with its hanging chads. Boston-area cyber security firm Carbon Black warned this week that Pennsylvania is a likely target and especially vulnerable to election shenanigans, in part because there’s no paper trail on these machines.

“Why can you go buy a candy bar and get a paper receipt and yet when you go to vote for president of the most powerful nation on earth you don’t get a receipt?” asked Carbon Black’s Ben Johnson.

Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson on Friday discussed the topic and couldn’t guarantee a hack-free Election Day. But Feaser insists Dauphin County’s old machines and old software are an advantage.

“This is 1985 electronic technology,” Feaser said. “It’s sophisticated enough to enable voters to use these, and judges and inspectors to record the votes quickly at the end of the night, but it’s not so sophisticated that it’s WiFi-connected to the internet, so there is no way to hack into this machine.”

Carbon Black’s Johnson concedes the point, even though he made a splash in a CBS network story, saying if he were a hacker, he’d target Pennsylvania. He backed off that when ABC27 spoke to him Friday afternoon specifically on hacking.

“It’s great that the machines are not connected to the internet,” Johnson said of Dauphin County’s voting machines.

But Johnson said election officials should still be on the lookout for human tampering before, during and after the votes are cast.

“We’re just trying to bring awareness around,” he said. “There’s some risk. You should still absolutely vote, but we should probably have some better discussions going forward.”

Feaser said the county places 494 machines on Election Day. They cost about a million dollars in 1985. He says to replace them all would cost $10 million, a big number for equipment used just two days a year.

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