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Technical solutions won't stop the real threats to elections

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Elections could be conducted more efficiently with electronic or even online voting, we're sometimes told. The integrity of elections could supposedly be guaranteed by using blockchain technology.

But a panel discussion in Canberra on Tuesday evening revealed that the people who look more closely at the integrity of elections worry about other things, things that technology can't fix.

The full electoral systems that support our democracies aren't just about the systems used to count votes, whether they're built of computers, or pencil and paper. They also include, amongst other things, the laws that decide who can and can't vote, the bureaucratic processes that manage those voter rolls, and what might be called the "free and open arena of ideas", where citizens can discuss the issues and form their views on how to vote.

Alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election was all about that arena of ideas. Attempts to subvert the voting process by technical means had "minimal" effect, according to John Felker, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and made no difference to the result.

"We did not detect any effect at all by what they did," Felker told ZDNet, even though US authorities reportedly saw Russian scanning of election systems, and there were "a couple of instances" where they entered election systems -- although they were mostly administration systems rather than those used for voting or counting.

"The other, the 'information operation' if you will, I think maybe had a little bit more effect, but that's still being sorted out," he said. "It's a difficult thing to measure."

This discussion on stopping the cyber threat to our elections was held at the Australian Strategic

Read more from our friends at ZDNet

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