‘Kill Chain: The Cyber War On America’s Elections’ Is A Timely Lesson

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

In advance of the 2020 Presidential election, Kill Chain: The Cyber War On America’s Elections debuts Thursday, March 26, 9:00 ET/PT.
The film will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW,  and HBO GO.

Most Americans would likely assume that, in the United States, our elections are safe, secure, and unbreakable. However, this simply could not be further from the truth. From the same team who brought us Hacking Democracy in 2006, Kill Chain: The Cyber War On America’s Elections is a timely lesson in how elections are actually carried out today using old, outdated, and insecure machines.

Finnish hacker and cybersecurity expert Harri Hursti pulls back the curtain on these machines by showing how they can be compromised—even going so far as to buy his own from a recycling plant for seventy-five dollars each. Interviewing other experts and breaking open these machines to figure out how they actually work, the vulnerabilities become more apparent. Hursti also touches on claims and talking points made by the companies manufacturing and supporting the election machines. One of them is that they do not connect to the internet, but Hursti quickly dispels that claim when he turns on his on, and the first question asked is if it wanted to connect to a network. Taking the machine apart, it is clear that these machines are just likely any computer, even if outdated. They are designed to communicate and, when not properly taken care of, they are easy targets for hackers seeking to disrupt elections.

The machines can even be bought on eBay, as Brian Varner discovered.

Courtesy of HBO

Hursti is abundantly clear that disrupting an election does not just have to be about changing votes. For chaos to take place, small details have to be changed, and those details slowly build up. Changing a voter’s address or the spelling of their name, for example, causes confusion and uncertainty.

Especially egregious is the whole response to this information. Despite the United States government having the knowledge that voting machines are not secure, they are still being used. The companies responsible for them are lobbying to keep them in use and are active participants in the political process. When pushed about security and monitoring, they do little to ensure it.

Kill Chain highlights the controversial and incredibly tight, gubernatorial race between Brian Kemp, then-Secretary of State who was responsible for overseeing elections, and former Congresswoman Stacey Abrams. Kemp, managing his own election, came under sharp criticism. Can you guess what was used to collect votes?

This documentary is especially timely, and damning, as we find ourselves in the middle of another presidential election. The machines have already been deployed in primaries, and they are sure to be used in November. Is the United States government taking appropriate measures to make sure voting remains secure, or will there be doubt about the eventual results and tactics?

Engaging from start to finish, Kill Chain: The Cyber War On America’s Elections is not to be missed as it sets out to inform the public and make them better participants in democracy.

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