Paper Ballots Are Still the Safest Way to Vote, Expert Warns

The looming threat of foreign interference in the U.S. election process hinges on electronic systems to tally votes. One expert says many of the threats are mitigated with a return to paper ballots.

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(TNS) — Election voting is the cybersecurity industry’s most difficult challenge, and casting ballots on paper is the safest option against any digital disruptions, says CrowdStrike Holdings co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer Dmitri Alperovitch.

“Voting is the hardest thing to secure when it comes to cybersecurity,” Alperovitch said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “The only way we know how to do it well and safely is by using paper.” The best ways to ensure that a digital hack won’t happen, he said, are in-person voting and ballots that are either mailed in or dropped off at collection sites.

Alperovitch said he hasn’t seen evidence of Russian hacking into campaigns or political organizations and leaking information so far this year. He warned of “influence operations” by China, Iran, and Russia conducted through social media. U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia is still using social media and television to help President Donald Trump, while China and Iran want the Democratic candidate Joe Biden to win the presidency in November.

The election infrastructure, which includes voter databases and vote-tallying and vote-reporting systems, is “very, very, vulnerable to hacking,” Alperovitch added. “I’m not so much concerned about foreign entities interfering in the paper process, but we do need to make sure that states are prepared to take in the huge number of mail-in ballots that will come in.”

The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to jump this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Postal Service had warned that 46 states may not be able to deliver their ballots on time for the November election. President Donald Trump has said repeatedly, without evidence, that voting by mail is subject to widespread fraud.

One less-discussed but viable option is ballot drop-off, Alperovitch said. All precincts should install drop boxes by the curbside, where people can drop off the ballot without using the mail, he said.

The election in November may be one where “we may not know who the president is the night of the election or the day after,” Alperovitch said, echoing comments last week by Facebook Inc.’s head of cybersecurity policy. The social media platform is preparing to rein in misinformation in a prolonged period before the result is released.

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