Have Pennsylvania 2016 presidential election results been skewed by malware or manipulation by hackers?

Does Pennsylvania state 2016 presidential election voter ballot recount have anything to do with malware and hacking concerns?

 

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According to a professor from the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society – J. Alex Halderman –  a persuasive evidence has been found that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.” He published a detailed explanation of his theories on Medium.com.

Professor Halderman expressed his concerns after the New York Magazine article detailing his views about the 2016 election process and its results. In that article he elaborates on how a foreign government could hack an election. He wrote that hackers might “spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate.”

He has been calling for a forensic examination of paper ballots and voting machines in the three states. The professor writes that states rarely check paper ballots against electronic voting machine tabulations and that the machines are largely insecure. His article contains a map in which he says that counties in Wisconsin and Michigan use optical scan ballots that could be checked against the results, and some counties in Pennsylvania do.

Here’s his theory: “First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker’s work might leave no visible signs — though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.”

Farfetched?

These concerns and fears are nothing new. Several people have expressed concern regarding the security of voter booths. However, now the Green Party’s candidate Jill Stein is attempting to court order a statewide ballot recount in Pennsylvania after concerns of malware manipulating the results.  The concerns are focused on Pennsylvania due to their heavy reliance on electronic systems for voter ballots, and lack of paper backups.

Whether or not recount in PA proceeds, the state officials are confident the results will remain unchanged. Pennsylvania Secretary of State, Pedro Cortes, made the following statement to Pittsburg Action News:

“When everything is said and done, you’re going to see that the results are accurate,” Cortes said. “Are they perfect? Did they miss one vote here or there? … To see something systemic that will change the outcome of the election, no, nothing like that I anticipate will come out of the recounts.”

Most votes in Pennsylvania are cast on paperless computer voting machines and so there is no physical record to audit. Michigan’s post-election audit procedures don’t include manually examining ballots.

So, it appears that the results of the 2016 presidential election in PA, WI, and MI are final. Does anyone believe the results have been potentially tampered by hackers and skewed by malware?

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