Jul 23, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Nearly one-fourth of Americans live in states making it harder to vote by mail

Joseph Marks

with Tonya Riley

Nearly one in four U.S. voters live in states that will make it difficult or impossible for them to vote by mail in November, despite the health dangers posed by in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of nine states comprising 54 million voters are maintaining tight restrictions on mail voting even as other states run by Republicans and Democrats alike have rushed to expand the practice. 
Those states will allow a handful of people to vote by mail if they’re ill, elderly or serving in the military out of state. But they won’t accept fear of the coronavirus as an adequate excuse to vote by mail, as Kate Rabinowitz and Brittany Renee Mayes report. They’ve held fast even as coronavirus infections have surged to more than 3 million Americans and deaths again begin to climb.
The broad lack of access to mail ballots is a prime example of how some states may make it exceptionally difficult for a slew of Americans to vote safely and securely during the pandemic. The gap is a rallying cry for Democrats who fear state rules — along with President Trump’s relentless attacks on mail voting — could force people to risk their health by voting in person or forego voting altogether.
It’s a stark example of how Americans’ ability to vote safely and securely during the pandemic can vary widely from state to state. It has also become a rallying cry for Democrats who fear those stringent rules — along with President Trump’s relentless attacks on mail voting — could force people to risk their health by voting in person or forego voting altogether.
They’re making a last-ditch effort to include up to $3.6 billion in election funding in the next coronavirus stimulus bill along with mandates that states ensure all their residents have the opportunity to vote by mail in November.
I would rather be putting ballots in a mailbox than people in the hospital,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), said during a Senate Rules Committee hearing on the topic. “That’s a choice we have for so many voters and that’s why you see overwhelming support for getting funding, and something I believe we can get done on a bipartisan basis.”

Most of the states still restricting mail voting lean Republican – but not all of them. 

Seven of the nine states traditionally vote Republican in presidential elections, but the list also includes left-leaning New York and Connecticut. Texas, a perennial red state that Democrats hope might flip blue this election, is also on the list.
The list also includes several states that allowed broad mail voting during primaries they held during the pandemic, including New York, Kentucky and West Virginia. The other states are Indiana, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi.
There’s no uniform reasoning behind the states’ hesitancy to expand mail voting, though reasons likely include budget shortfalls, officials who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the process, and concerns about verifying the identity of people who vote by mail.

It’s probably also driven in some states by Trump's repeated broadsides against mail voting.

The president has claimed without evidence that the practice will lead to widespread fraud. He even has speculated he may not accept the election results because they’ll be “rigged” by mail voting, causing concern among Democrats and legal experts, as Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa report.
Trump has repeated those claims even as many Republican election officials have embraced mail voting as the most secure option during coronavirus. The baseless claims seem to have had an effect in primaries where Republicans have voted by mail at lower levels than Democrats in many states.
The consequences are potentially severe. In states where deadlines made voting by mail difficult during the primaries, there were frequently long lines at a reduced number of polling places. In Wisconsin, which held its primary during the early days of the virus with little preparation, lines stretched for blocks in Milwaukee and Green Bay. More than 70 people who went to polls that day later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Democrats’ argument is simple: Forcing people to vote in person during the pandemic is dangerous and tantamount to voter suppression. 

That danger outweighs Republicans’ concerns it’s inappropriate for the federal government to tell states how to run elections, they say.
“While we are happy with a lot of the work that's been going on in the states...there are still a lot of problems out there,” Klobuchar said. She’s a sponsor of the main Democratic measure to increase federal election funding, which would also mandate that states allow all voters to cast mail ballots and offer 15 days of early voting.
Klobuchar and other Democrats went toe-to-toe during a hearing yesterday with Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett (R), whose state has traditionally opposed mail voting. Tennessee is currently required to let all its registered voters cast ballots by mail in November because of a state court ruling by a judge in Nashville. But state leaders are appealing that ruling at the state Supreme Court and may succeed in reversing it before November.
You’re saying someone can’t say I don’t want to stand in line for two hours with several hundred other people and [risk] my health? That’s not good enough in your state?...That’s pitiful,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said.
Hargett said Tennessee’s legislature had considered expanding mail voting during the pandemic and decided firmly against it. “The policymakers of our great state of Tennessee have made that decision,” he said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) went a step further, accusing officials who aren’t allowing expanded mail voting of actively trying to suppress turnout.
“Doing everything you can to make people who may be vulnerable to covid appear in person doesn’t make it sound like you want people to show up and vote,” he said.

The keys

Hackers who compromised high-profile Twitter accounts spied on 36 users' private messages. 

That's in addition to taking over the accounts of 130 users to support a bitcoin scheme, including the accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Elon Musk, and stealing the direct messages of eight users. The users whose DMs were compromised included one elected official in the Netherlands, the company said in an update yesterday.
While hackers have compromised individual accounts in the past, including chief executive Jack Dorsey's, the recent hack represents one of the company's largest security breaches.  
The company pinned the attack on hackers who conned employees into giving up credentials that provided access to Twitter's internal systems. The FBI is investigating the attack, which it believes was financially motivated.

Biden's campaign is accusing Senate Republicans of amplifying foreign disinformation.

The accusations target a probe led by Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). The probe focuses on Biden’s son Hunter’s former role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and whether it unduly influenced Obama administration policy. There is no evidence that is the case.
That investigation was also reportedly behind a claim by Democratic congressional leaders that Congress is being used as a tool to “launder and amplify” foreign disinformation about the election.
“Sen. Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives and jobs — but instead he's wasting taxpayer dollars on a blatantly dishonest attempt to help Donald Trump get reelected,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield wrote in a memo obtained by NBC News.
The Biden campaign also slammed Johnson and the White House for refusing to address reports that pro-Russian foreigners have fed them materials for the Biden probe.

France may fully restrict Huawei from its 5G network by 2028.  

French authorities have told telecom operators that don’t have Huawei gear to steer clear of it and told those with such gear they’ll renew licenses for it only for three to eight years, Mathieu Rosemain and Gwénaëlle Barzic at Reuters report. That will result in the Chinese telecom being effectively banned from France when those licenses expire.
The de facto ban is another blow against Huawei in Europe. The United Kingdom banned Huawei from its 5G network build-out earlier this month. The United States has aggressively lobbied European allies to ban Huawei, which it says could be exploited for spying by Beijing. Huawei denies the allegations.
Chinese officials have threatened to retaliate against European telecom equipment companies if other countries in the region follow suit.

Chat room

ProPublica's Jessica Huseman went deep on problems plaguing the agency tasked with helping states maintain the integrity of U.S. elections.
Legal scholar Rick Hasen provided some more historical context:


The personal information of hundreds of thousands of Instacart customers is for sale on the dark web.

The data includes names, credit card information, addresses and transaction information from as recently as Tuesday, Jane Lytvynenko at BuzzFeed News reports. Two different sellers appeared to be offering information from 278,531 accounts, though it's unclear if some are repeat or fake accounts.
Instacart operates a grocery delivery service that has surged in popularity during the pandemic. The company denied it was breached.
But cybersecurity expert Nick Espinosa told BuzzFeed the data looked legitimate. Two customers whose data was for sale confirmed to BuzzFeed that the dark web information matched their recent purchases and credit card information.
More hacking news:

Industry report

Apple is enlisting cybersecurity researchers to help find bugs in its phones. 

The company will give the researchers modified iPhones that make it easier for them to probe the phones for flaws, Joseph Menn at Reuters reports. Apple first promised the initiative last year after years of complaints from security researchers that the company made it difficult for them to find and report security issues.
Apple sued cybersecurity start-up Corellium last year for copyright infringement for offering a virtual interface of the iPhone to help researchers look for bugs, further chilling its relationship with the research community. Researchers speculate that iPhones may appear to be more secure than Android devices only because it's tougher for researchers to examine them for flaws.
Apple executives haven’t said how many researchers will receive the initial batch of phones. The company will also make senior engineers available to researchers who find issues, another step toward greater transparency.


  • The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on The PACT Act and Section 230 on Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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