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Senators call for '9/11-style' commission on computer voting security

Horse, meet stable door

Two US senators on Friday introduced legislation to set up the National Commission on the Cybersecurity of the United States Election Systems, to examine the possibility that people tried to hack the 2016 election.

The commission would examine the evidence to see if the Russians, or someone else, actively tried to hack the election process – either by altering results or interfering with electoral backend systems. The members would draw up a series of recommendations to harden US election systems, according to the legislation's sponsors, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

"There is no credible doubt that Russia attacked our election infrastructure in 2016," said Gillibrand. "We need to be able to defend ourselves against threats to our elections, our democracy, and our sacred right to vote. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to create a 9/11-style Commission to defend our democracy and protect ourselves against future attacks on our country."

According to US Homeland Security, at least 21 states were probed before the election by hackers believed to be from Russia. As for the voting machines themselves, a hackathon at the DEF CON security conference this year showed that they are depressingly easy to pwn, with many still running Windows XP.

However, so far the current administration has shown little interest in investigating Russian hacking claims – indeed the President has expressed the belief that the whole thing is fake news, although some in Congress disagree.

Similar legislation to this new Senate bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD). While a lot of Democratic legislators are keen for such a plan, the response has been tepid from the other political party.

"Hostile governments like Russia don't believe in democracy," said Graham. "They have shown an eagerness to meddle in elections in the United States and other democratic nations. This issue should be beyond partisan politics, as it strikes at the heart of our democracy. We must take steps to ensure that we protect the integrity of our elections from hostile, outside, and foreign influences." ®

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