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Election Day CyberFest: Hackers, Hacking, 'Journalism,' The FBI, And Jiveass Baloney


As this election’s perfect argument for the dismantling of the two-party system has shuddered to a halt, the overriding issue appeared not to be a race run pretty much on no issues at all, but an unhealthy amount of paranoia.

Between the FBI’s inadvertently bipartisan investigation (and reinvestigation) of Hillary Clinton’s emails, the constant cry that the Russians are coming (two if by underwater cable), and Donald Trump’s insistence that the election is rigged (until he won), voting (and voting machines) are the cyber-est thing of all this election season.

If no one’s tampering with the machines, someone’s tampering with the voters. Trump greeted early returns with a lawsuit over the supposed illegality of letting everyone lined up to vote actually vote before closing the booths. The bold new face of bounty-based “journalism” — spearheaded by Pax Dickinson and questionable lawsuit enthusiast Chuck Johnson — spent all day offering a $6720 bounty for evidence of voter fraud. At this point it remains uncollected, and the law of diminishing returns has sapped the energy from retweeters.

Add into the fun a set of researchers finding (SHOCKER!) voting machines to be terribly insecure. That in itself isn’t new, but letting everyone in on how exactly to do it certainly is.

The problem relates to a 16MB Compact Flash card that each AVC Edge machine relies upon, which can be easily removed, modified and replaced for the purpose of modifying voter counts.

“After about four days and about $25 worth of hardware we had the machines spitting out results that cannot be technically refuted,” Ryan Smith, vice president of research at Cylance, tells Newsweek.

“It is an odd state of affairs when the technology in your phone is so strong that the FBI, with an $8.3 billion budget and months of work, cannot find a way into the machine protecting your text messages, yet the machines protecting our democracy can be foiled with just $25 in 32 hours.”

While we all can appreciate the offhand suggestion that it’s the government that should be “nerding harder,” plenty of people seemed upset that the researchers would drop this news into the already-overboiling election pot.

“This disclosure seems political in nature,” bug-bounty expert Katie Moussouris told The Verge. “Releasing this publicly, after DHS and states have been aware of these types of attacks for years, only serves to fuel the fires of doubting the election results.”

Hackers for Trump or whatever. This concern seems misplaced, given the inherent hackability of voting machines. It certainly grabs more eyeballs than it would in an off year, but there’s nothing in here that suggests the release’s timing was motivated by Trump’s claims that voter fraud would be the only explanation for him not collecting more of the popular vote.

Finally, we get to the nadir of election paranoia. And, of course, it involves the FBI.

A tweet suggesting hacking of voting machines was in the works was sent out on October 21st. With impeccable timing, the FBI apparently showed up at the tweeter’s door on election day.

This tweet just earned ya boy Jive a visit from the motherfucking FBI. Not even joking.

So, a photo of some USB drives and screencap of supposed code was enough to motivate the feds into investigating almost three weeks later. Things were cleared up when it became apparent a.) it was a joke and b.) the screencapped code wouldn’t even work.

But if you’re going to draw the heat, you may as well do in style. Choose your social media handle for maximum federal uncomfortableness, kids.

First question they asked me was “Are you the Twitter user, uh Jiveass *checked notes*…Baloney?

So, we have a new president-elect. At least that much is out of the way. There are only 45 shopping days till Christmas and an eon to go before this stupid year finally ends.

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