Maryland online voter registration

Report: 2 states' online registration systems vulnerable to hackers, fraud

Voter registration systems that make it easy for people to sign up to vote also could make it easy for hackers — not to mention political operatives — to wreak havoc with registration lists and people’s ability to vote, the New York Times reports.

The Times cites two states, Maryland and Washington, that have set up easy, online registration systems. Security researchers have found vulnerabilities in the registration databases of those two states that could, for instance, allow a hacker to change someone’s address so that, in Washington, where voting is done by mail, that person never receives a ballot, the Times said. In Maryland, that person could be removed from the local registration list and left unable to vote.

An automated hacker program also could change information for an entire demographic or political party membership in a precinct, the Times said.

Online voting is something that has been on the horizon for a while. And although the technology to do so exists, so too are the vulnerabilities and hacker communities. In 2010, Washington, D.C., unveiled an online voting system with such confidence that officials invited people to try to break in. It didn’t take long before students from the University of Michigan had the system singing “The Victors.” 

If online registration systems turn out to be vulnerable, the next step, the voting process itself, is likely to remain on the vulnerability horizon.

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