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Voters Consumed With Political Spam Messages


Several campaigns have taken to aggressive, last-minute tactics — like blasting their constituency districts with spammy text messages.

ZDNet has seen reports and tweets of screenshots of text messages from several New York-based candidates in the past few days, pushing local residents to vote for a particular candidate or calling for campaign donations.


That drew ire from one local resident, who said the unsolicited message could influence how they would vote Tuesday.

For years, state and federal election candidates have used text messages as a way to solicit votes or contributions from their constituents. Use of text messaging first rocketed during the 2008 presidential campaign and has only escalated in size and scale — no more so than during last year’s election.

But the law is clear: it’s illegal for companies to send text messages to individuals who haven’t given prior consent.

Craig Engle, an attorney at Washington DC.-based law firm Arent Fox, said that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act protects consumers from receiving unsolicited political calls and texts to cell phones unless the sender has obtained prior consent.

But there’s a catch: political emails and text messages are considered non-commercial and are exempt from the law.

After all, these campaigns aren’t trying to sell you anything — they just want you to donate or vote for them.

But questions remain over how residents’ phone numbers are obtained by campaigns.

A Brisport campaign spokesperson told ZDNet that the phone numbers used to send two separate text messages by the campaign were obtained from New York’s Board of Elections.


One former senior staffer for a presidential candidate’s campaign (who did not want to be named for the story) told ZDNet that phone numbers are often traded — bought and sold — like a commodity.

Lists of long-codes of people’s phone numbers, of people who’ve opted into text messages, can be purchased. Anyone could buy a list that’s legally opted-in and send a message.

People almost never read the terms of service. “When you signed in to some social app or when you shared your phone number with your bank, any of those folks could’ve sold on your information,” the person said. “But it doesn’t mean that people remember.”

And as frustrating as unsolicited text messages are, political campaigns tend to stay within the lines of the law — even if they have to be reminded of the rules from time to time.

“Campaigns are very risk averse in pushing those boundaries because they don’t want to get caught or kicked off the ballot, so they won’t do something too sketchy,” the person said.

Engle said that the best action to take is to simply respond to unsolicited text messages with “STOP.”

“That, in theory, should take you off the list,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, a complaint could be filed with the FTC.”

Political campaigns are in no hurry to stop using text messages in their campaigns. President Obama’s successful 2008 campaign set the gold standard for using text messages in his winning campaign, a departure from John McCain’s use of robocalls.

Text message blasts could help voters remember a candidate’s name in the voting booth, but is a pesky spammer really the best person for the job?

Open Source Vs Commercial Source For Upcoming Election In The U.S.


San Francisco in January 2018 could become the first U.S. city to adopt open source software to run its voting machines.

City officials last month authorized consulting group Slalom to prepare a report on the benefits and challenges involved in using an open source voting machine platform. The city voted to pay Slalom US$150,000 for its research

The city will also this year pay Dominion Voting Systems $2.3 million to renew its contract for the company’s proprietary voting machine software. That system is nearing the end of its life cycle.

Officials hope a move to open source will make San Francisco’s voting software more transparent and secure, as well as less costly. The expectation is that an open source voting machine program would offer more security against hack attacks. If the city should develop its own system, it then could provide the code to other cities.

Unlike proprietary software, open source code is available to anyone to vet potential security breaches. Users would not incur purchasing or subscription and licensing fees.


The Pros & Cons

California has begun to adopt open source in other areas. For example, state agencies already have used open source software to redesign California’s child welfare management system.

Regarding voting machines, there have been indications that California legislators are not opposed in principle to using open source.

Open source technologies offer the organizations involved in managing elections and vote tallying complete transparency into whatever is happening in voting machines and systems.

Those who oppose are mainly owners of proprietary voting systems and software who suggest that open source is inherently less secure and prone to hacking.

Open source software brings cost reductions, local control, increased security and transparency, all of which could boost voter trust in the election process, according to its advocates.

Nonproprietary voting software also could allow local governments to understand and adjust how votes are counted more quickly. Commercial vendors often consider those details trade secrets. The largest benefit in open source is that it can be vetted by anyone

Whoever finds a problem in open source does not have to contribute to the solution or even report it. Instead, it would be possible to keep the vulnerability secret and exploit it at will.

Going open source for transparency on voting systems could be a double-edged sword, warned Lamar Bailey, director of security research and development at Tripwire.

If San Francisco — or any locale — should pick an open source system, disclosing its choice before the election would allow attackers to review the code and craft attacks before the election, he said.

“If San Francisco decides to announce the name of the software after the election, that could cause issues too if someone finds a vulnerability in the code used at the time of the election.

Voting is an area in which there is distrust in results and the systems used to gather them. This is especially true for those on the losing side, he pointed out.

“We have seen everything from hanging chads to Russian hackers being blamed for results, as well as documented vulnerabilities in voting machines,” Bailey said.

Alternative View

Going open source would be a bold move. Instead, the government should employ multiple security companies to review and pen test existing systems to ensure that they are secure, Bailey recommended.

Open source would provide little benefit, given that the systems are air-gapped, said Philip Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software.

Open source carries few real benefits — but it comes with quite a few risks, according to Byron Rashed, vice president of global marketing, advanced threat intelligence at InfoArmor.

Moving to open source for voting machines would not help prevent hacking or other forms of election tampering, he maintained.

“It would definitely weaken it, since some vulnerabilities can be present for years. In addition, threat actors or highly organized cybercriminal gangs have members that are highly skilled in finding and exploiting vulnerabilities,” Rashed told LinuxInsider.

Impact on the Bottom Line


Open source would allow localities to own their elections more fully and be less beholden to outsiders, whether they happen to be hackers or vendors of proprietary voting systems, he noted.

On the other hand, proprietary voting solution vendors have argued that they are better positioned to understand the inherent dangers of vote tampering and to protect systems from hackers.



Homeland Security Suspects 21 States Were Targeted By Hackers


The Department of Homeland Security told Congress this summer that it suspected that 21 states were targeted, by hackers.

In June, DHS Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Jeanette Manfra told a US Senate Intelligence Committee that “internet-connected election-related networks, including websites, in 21 states were potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors,” but didn’t disclose which states were impacted.

DHS officially contacted election officials in each state and six territories on Friday to “fill them in on what information the agency has about election hacking attempts in their state last year,” according to NPR. State officials from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin say that they were among those contacted. NPR reports that officials in Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, and North Carolina say that they were not amongst those contacted.

Taco Trucks Doubling As Voter Registration Booths


Texas had the second-lowest voter turnout in the nation in the March primaries so eight taco trucks have signed on with Mi Familia Vota as mobile registration booths. It’s a chance to grab a delicious lunch and register to make your voice heard.  Until October 11.

  • El Taquito Food Truck, 8429 Richmond Ave.
  • El Ultimo Taco Truck, 1743 Jacquelyn Dr.
  • La Gloria Tacos, 7400 Long Point Rd.
  • La Gloria Tacos, 14520 Memorial Dr.
  • Taconmadre, 905 Edgebrook Dr.
  • Tacos Mayra, 10510 Beechnut St.
  • Tacos Tierra Caliente, 1919 W. Alabama St.
  • Tila’s Taco Truck, 2309 University Blvd.

Hacking Group Anonymous Declares War On Trump


The “hacktivist” group  Anonymous has declared “total war” against Donald Trump.

Here’s what they said. “Dear Donald Trump, we have been watching you for a long time and what we see is deeply disturbing,” a masked Anonymous member begins in the recording. “Your inconsistent and hateful campaign has not only shocked the United States of America, you have shocked the entire planet with your appalling actions and ideas.”

Anonymous says it has a detailed plan for taking down The Donald. On April 1, for example, the group plans to take down the website for Trump International Hotel & Tower. The collective also plans to destroy his brand by unearthing dirt that discredits his image. Already, the group has hacked Trump’s voicemail and leaked the messages



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The findings of a Yahoo News survey poll  revealed,that of the  5,188 registered voters conducted ahead of the Digital Democracy conference in Iowa Thursday, Blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans all have more positive views on the use of technology in politics than whites do. And Blacks stand out as the group who feel most strongly that the Internet and social media have helped make American politics more representative of society.

Over 70 percent of Blacks said they think the Internet and social media ensure that political campaigns are more transparent. This compares to 69 percent of Asian-Americans, 63 percent of Hispanics and 59 percent of whites. When asked whether the Internet and social media have affected the political influence of minority voters, 55 percent of Blacks said technology has made such voters more influential. Fifty-one percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of whites and 43 percent of Asian-Americans felt the same. Registered voters agreed that technology has made political campaigns more negative. Whites (57 percent) were the group most likely to share this view, followed by Asian-Americans (51 percent) and Hispanics (50 percent). While 41 percent of Blacks said the Internet and social media have made campaigns more negative, 34 percent of Blacks said technology had no effect whatsoever on political campaigns. Voters across the spectrum also told pollsters they believed technology contributed to the spread of misinformation about politics and the election, with 85 percent of whites sharing this view, followed by 83 percent of Asian-Americans, 81 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of Blacks.

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