Aug 18, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Fighting Trump on mail voting is major theme of Democrats’ convention week

Joseph Marks

“We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow-up to make sure they’re received," she said. “And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) lit into the president during a separate address, calling mail voting a “secure, proven option." The Trump campaign is suing Nevada – one of many election-related lawsuits already brought by Republicans – over a plan to send mail ballots to all registered voters, which Trump has claimed without evidence will lead to widespread fraud. Nevada is one of four states that's adopted such a system during the coronavirus pandemic while five others already voted that way without much controversy.
“Mr. President: Nevada is not intimidated by you. America is not intimidated by you. We are united by shared values, shared history and shared rights — including our fundamental right to vote,” she said.
The assaults underscored how the fight over safe and secure voting has grown in importance during the pandemic to become a central plank in Democrats’ case against the president. That fight has grown even more intense in recent weeks as Democrats push back on Postal Service changes that have slowed mail delivery and could prevent huge numbers of ballots from reaching election offices in time to be counted.
That's given a national character to a battle that's otherwise being mostly fought on a state-by-state basis and congressional Democrats have been quick to seize the opportunity. House Democrats even cut short a congressional vacation to rush back to Washington for an oversight hearing with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, and a Saturday vote on a measure that would roll back his changes until the end of the year.
“The right to vote is fundamental and the Post Office is essential,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, said.
The convention also featured a montage of voters in which one woman described suffering from multiple myeloma, which makes mail voting her only viable option during the pandemic. Another woman declared: “In no way do I want my 11 grandchildren to grow up in a world where this kind of suppression exists.”

The pushback is also taking place outside the virtual convention. 

Democratic lawmakers will hold news conferences and roundtables with postal workers today in front of at least 17 post offices across the country pushing for more funding and to roll back DeJoy's changes.
The events are taking place in some states that plan to rely heavily or near-exclusively on mail voting in November including Colorado, Washington, New Jersey and Florida, according to a list shared with me by Democratic officials. Other events will be in states where officials are still putting up barriers to the process, such as Tennessee and Texas.
During one such event in Baltimore yesterday, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pledged to “turn up the heat” on Trump and congressional Republicans, Erin Cox reported. “It’s going to make it really hard to continue down this road," he said.
DeJoy’s controversial reforms include banning postal workers from making extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery and cracking down on overtime hours, which has led to backlogs across the country. The Postal Service has also removed high-speed mail-sorting machines and public collection boxes in numerous states, but officials said this weekend that they would suspend all such operations until after the election.
In addition to rolling back those plans, Democrats are pushing for $25 billion in emergency Postal Service funding. Trump explicitly said last week that he opposes that money because it will make mail voting easier. Since then, White House officials, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have stepped back those claims and said they would accept a $10 billion rescue package.
Democratic state attorneys general have also sued to roll back the changes in California, New York and a half-dozen other states.

Trump, meanwhile, is accusing Democrats of using the Postal Service for political leverage. 

He complained on Twitter yesterday that the House Oversight Committee scheduled its hearing with DeJoy for Monday — the opening night of the Republican National Convention, rather than during this week’s Democratic convention.
In yet another tweet, Trump speculated that drop boxes, which voters can use to ensure mail ballots reach election officials without risking Postal service delays, might somehow be manipulated to rig the election. Election officials say there’s no legitimate concern about the security of drop boxes, which are also used in states where Trump has praised mail voting.

Trump’s stance on mail voting, meanwhile, has become increasingly convoluted. 

The president shifted recently from universally condemning mail voting to supporting it in some states where it seemed politically advantageous. That list includes Florida, where the president voted by mail this year, Arizona and North Carolina.
During a rally yesterday in Oshkosh, Wis., he urged supporters to “get out and vote [and] do those beautiful absentee ballots,” while simultaneously warning he could only lose “if the election is rigged,” a baseless claim he has typically tied to mail voting.

The keys

A new Trump administration ban deals Huawei another huge blow.

Going forward, the Commerce Department will require overseas chip manufacturers to get a special license before selling any chips to the Chinese telecom giant if they use any U.S. equipment or software, Jeanne Whalen and Ellen Nakashima report. That could be cripping for Huawei because the vast majority of semiconductors use U.S. technology or software in some way
The new move expands on a similar May Commerce ruling that only applied to chips that used Huawei designs.
The new rules “will prevent Huawei from circumventing U.S. law through alternative chip production and provision of off-the-shelf chips produced with tools acquired from the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. Huawei has long denied U.S. accusations that it can't be trusted not to aid Beijing spying.
The Commerce Department also added 38 new Huawei affiliates to its blacklist, including many cloud-computing subsidiaries.

Trump retweeted an unverified recording linked to a Russian effort to discredit Biden. 

The recording is of an unverified call between Biden and the former president of Ukraine and has been flagged by U.S. intelligence officials, Zachary Cohen and Marshall Cohen at CNN report.
Democrats slammed the tweet.
Trump has “irrevocably shown his true colors yet again” by retweeting Russian propaganda, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, clapped back on Twitter.
Trump retweeted the clips from a now-suspended account that was created in September and whose biography focused on anti-Biden rhetoric, CNN notes. 

The Secret Service bought suspects’ location data from a third party rather than getting a warrant for it. 

The data was collected from apps for advertising purposes and sold by a company called Babel Street, Joseph Cox at Motherboard reports. The report highlights how private companies can help law enforcement get data it would otherwise need a court order to obtain.
Babel Street has also contracted with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Protocol earlier reported. Other agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service use a similar service provided by the company Venntel, the Wall Street Journal found.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) plans to introduce legislation that would close the loopholes that allow government agencies to purchase such data.
“As part of my investigation into the sale of Americans’ private data, my office has pressed Babel Street for answers about where their data comes from, who they sell it to, and whether they respect mobile device opt-outs, Wyden told Motherboard. “It is clear that multiple federal agencies have turned to purchasing Americans’ data to buy their way around Americans’ Fourth Amendment Rights.”

Securing the ballot

The government’s top cybersecurity agency wants more local election officials to sign up for help. 

Only about 200 counties have signed up for a Department of Homeland Security election service that scans voter databases for potential concerns, Kevin Collier at NBC News reports.
“This is good progress. It's not great progress,” said Geoff Hale, director of the Election Security Initiative led by DHS.
Part of the problem is that even though the tools are free, local officials must still pay to implement them. Unprotected systems could leave small cities and counties at risk of hackers locking up their databases before Election Day, Hale said.

Cyber insecurity

The cruise operator Carnival is investigating a ransomware attack on one of its divisions.

The attack gave hackers unauthorized access to the personal data of guests and employees, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Nivedita Balu at Reuters reports. The company would not identify which of its divisions was attacked and was not sure whether the IT systems of its other properties would be affected.

Chat room

Your first of many reminders about what hacking the election would actually look like:


  • The Democratic National Convention takes place Monday through Thursday.

Secure log off

It was probably even more awkward in person:

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