MIT study: voting app that Denver used could be hacked

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DENVER (KDVR) — An app that some Denver voters used in 2019 has significant security issues, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study that was released Thursday said hackers could potentially block or change a vote and steal a voter’s personal information from the app Voatz.

The Denver Elections Division used Voatz in the May and June municipal elections for about 300 military and overseas voters. The Division did not report any security issues.

“We were very happy with it,” said Director of Elections Jocelyn Bucaro.

Burcaro said voter turnout increased significantly with Voatz. Traditionally, military members and others who are overseas and vote electronically would have to print a ballot, sign an affidavit, scan the documents and email them. Voatz allowed the voters to submit their ballots by just using a smartphone.

Also, the division used a three-step process to ensure the app and votes were secure.

“We are really grateful for the MIT researchers and releasing that report because we’ve been wanting more security review of the Voatz application and other vendors in this space,” Bucaro said.

Bucaro also said the Denver Elections Division has not decided if it will use Voatz for the next municipal election.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold does not use Voatz and told FOX31 she has no plans to use it or anything similar.

“Anytime we use internet voting, it needs to be secure and I think we’re at a place where that cannot be guaranteed right now,” Griswold said.

Griswold, who regularly speaks about election security, said Colorado is going back to the basics to make elections safe and avoid the malware and ransomeware attacks that are blocked on a regular basis.

“We use a paper ballot — a voter-verified paper ballot — none of our voting equipment is connected to the internet and we are the first state in the nation to do a risk-limiting audit,” Griswold said.

The app company, Voatz, is firing back at the MIT study. The company said its app is secure and that researchers used an old version of the app.

Voatz also said that it has never received a security complaint from a government elections office.

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