LegalTech Seminar Series CLE Recording: Cybersecurity for Elections

LegalTech Seminar Series: Cybersecurity for Elections

Duncan Buell
NCR Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Carolina
Member, Board of Voter Registration and Elections, Richland County

Willie Sutton is apocryphally quoted as saying that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is”. In the 21st century, things of value are almost more likely to exist on computers than anywhere else, and securing computer systems is thus crucial to financial and political stability. This is perhaps nowhere more important than in American elections; one can hardly imagine a more important target than the election of November 2020.

Given that the data used in elections and resulting from elections is stored on computers, the security and integrity of that data is a high priority. Officials repeatedly assert that election systems are not connected to the internet; these assertions have, in jurisdictions across the United States, repeatedly been shown to be false. In this talk we will trace the paths that election data take in configuring an election and producing its results, and we will describe the vulnerabilities that exist that thus require proper security measures. We emphasize that our experience has been that election officials are sincere and well-meaning, but that election computer security is difficult and is especially so given the demand for security professionals, the salary constraints on government employees, and the localized nature of American elections.

Duncan A. Buell received the Ph. D. degree in 1976 in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Louisiana State University. From 1986 to 2000 he worked on high performance computing and computational mathematics at the Institute for Defense Analyses in support of the National Security Agency, and in 1997 he was part of a team that received a Meritorious Unit Citation from Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet for "a stunning achievement" that required the largest single computation ever made in the US intelligence community. He joined the University of South Carolina in October 2000 as a professor and served nine years as chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and a year as interim dean of the college. He has research interests in electronic voting, digital humanities, text analysis, and computer science education. He was appointed in March 2019 to the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Richland County, South Carolina.

Approved for one (1) credit of CLE in South Carolina.

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