Nordic Co-Founder and Election Security expert Harri Hursti spoke with CBS News about the state of US election security and various vulnerabilities various vulnerabilities within our election infrastructure.


WASHINGTON (CBS) As the 2018 midterm election approaches, what happened in 2016 is still at the forefront for many security officials. Just this week, CBS News learned the military’s U.S. Cyber Command launched its first offensive against Russian meddling in the midterms. And last week, the Justice Department charged a Russian woman with trying to influence the election.

What are the possible risks and how are federal officials working to secure the voting system for Nov. 6?

In a demonstration, it only took seconds for security expert Harri Hursti to hack into a voting machine.

“There’s no way of even knowing that any of this happened,” said Hursti, the co-founder of DEFCON Voting Village.

Hursti is an organizer with DEFCON, one of the world’s largest hacking conventions, where even kids were able to penetrate voting systems.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of known vulnerabilities in these machines,” Hursti said.

Protecting election infrastructure is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is deploying sensors to detect intrusions, particularly from foreign countries like Russia.

“We’re basically already at full activation. We’re working with state and local partners,” said Christopher Krebs, the undersecretary for DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate.

Krebs says his agency and federal partners have set up a virtual command center for Election Day for local officials to report suspicious activity. In preparation, it participated in a summit this month with secretaries of state.

Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s elections administrator, said they did things like tabletop exercises and scenario-based training.

“All you have to do is to be as prepared as you can possibly be,” said John Merrill, Alabama’s secretary of state.

So far, Krebs says he hasn’t seen the same level of activity from the Russians compared to 2016. While U.S. intelligence agencies recently warned of ongoing influence campaigns by Russia, China, and other foreign actors including Iran, they have “no evidence” of a compromise to infrastructure.

But Hursti warns the threat remains.

“Every voting machine today, every voting machine in the future, all will be hackable,” he said.

A study released Wednesday by Unisys, a global information technology company, finds nearly one in five Americans surveyed “will not vote” or have a “high likelihood” of not voting in the midterms because of concerns about outside actors compromising U.S. election voting systems.


Watch the interview here!