Voting system data breach notifications – National Academies of Science recommendations for securing voting systems

The National Academies of Science have released Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. The consensus report richly documents how, during the 2016 presidential election, actors sponsored by the Russian government attacked the US voting and election infrastructure. The report assesses the web of technology infrastructures related to voting, and gives detailed recommendations for strengthening these infrastructures, from municipal to state to federal governments, to vendors. 

One recommendation that stood out was to provide  “voting data breach” notification of any efforts “to probe, tamper with, or interfere with voter registration systems” to the Department of Homeland Security, the US Elections Assistance Commission, and state officials. Vendors and others would make the notifications. This is an excellent recommendation, and one that can and should be implemented immediately. Voting infrastructures contain multiple levels of privacy and security risks, not the least of which is a profusion of detailed demographic information about millions of individuals flowing through these systems.

One impact of current US data breach notification laws is that we now have overwhelming proof of the reality of data breaches in every area where breach reporting is mandatory, for example, certain financial data breaches and medical data breaches. Reporting voting infrastructure data breaches should be similarly mandatory, and breach reports should be accessible to the public. Voting infrastructure breach notification would go far to improve the transparency of the health and security of US voting infrastructures. US lawmakers have already deemed breach notification in other areas as highly important. Voting infrastructure data breaches may well be the most important breaches of all to notify individuals and infrastructure members about. This NAS recommendation deserves serious consideration.  

Related Documents:

Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy is available online.