Halderman co-chairs new commission to protect Michigan votes

The effort seeks to protect the integrity of every vote.

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Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a new Election Security Commission to recommend reforms and strategies for ensuring the security of elections in Michigan, to be co-chaired by Prof. J. Alex Halderman. Halderman’s work in voting security and in particular electronic voting machines has positioned him as a preeminent expert in the field.

Previously, Halderman made multiple contributions to election security advocacy at the federal level. Since 2017, he’s testified before both the Senate Intelligence Committee and US House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Service and General Government to address vulnerabilities in the US voting system and a policy agenda for securing the system against the threat of hacking. He regularly discusses his work in major media outlets, describing the dangers of mobile, internet, blockchain, and purely electronic voting systems.

The new commission in Michigan will give Halderman the opportunity to directly guide security measures taken in the state.

“The first-of-its-kind effort brings together 18 local and national experts on cybersecurity and elections to secure elections and protect the integrity of every vote,” the Secretary of State office said in a release. “Together they will advise the secretary of state and Bureau of Elections on best practices.”

The commission will convene in early April to begin its review and assessment of election security in Michigan.

It later will host hearings throughout the state and invite citizen and expert input on election problems and security. The commission will deliver a set of recommended reforms and actions to the secretary of state by the end of 2019. Its work is funded through a federal grant for election security.

Halderman has been at the forefront of exposing vulnerabilities in electronic voting systems around the world. Working with the New York Times in 2017, he staged a mock election to demonstrate voting machine vulnerability. Among other solutions, he advocates for back-up paper ballots that could make true audits possible.

In 2018, he and CSE PhD student Matt Bernhard introduced a new special topics course on election cybersecurity, providing students with a deep examination of the past, present, and future of US elections with perspectives from computer security, tech policy, human factors, and more.

Halderman’s security work has also been spun off into industrial security startup Censys, co-founded with alumni David Adrian and Zakir Durumeric. The company provides tools to monitor all devices connected to the internet for threats. IT staff at companies can use Censys to discover new threats and assess their possible impact. The company attracted early attention from Duo Security’s Dug Song, and plans to begin raising a much larger Series A round later in 2019 or in 2020.