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LA County Computer Specialists Attempt to Hack Their Own Voting Equipment in Attempt to Improve Security

As part of an effort to create a new voting system, Los Angeles County computer specialists are headed this week to Las Vegas and Defcon, one of the world’s largest hacking conventions, where attendees will try to compromise voting equipment, it was reported Wednesday.

County Registrar-Recorder Dean C. Logan said he hopes Defcon’s new Voting Village will give his staff more to worry about as they work to revamp the way Los Angeles County votes, the Los Angeles Times reported. Defcon, which draws 20,000 participants to Las Vegas yearly, has set aside a space this year for hackers to pick apart voting machines, assail voter-registration databases and carry out mock attacks on various voting processes from around the country.

In time-honored Defcon style, some will play offense and some will play defense, and the point is to expose vulnerabilities, according to The Times.

Defcon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Moss said he and fellow Defcon planners have spent months buying voting equipment on EBay to prepare for the event, The Times reported. He said he hopes the Voting Village will spur new interest in problems in U.S. election systems.

The event comes at a moment of heightened interest in the possibility of election tampering. American intelligence officials released an assessment in January saying that, although the vote count was not affected, Russian- government hackers interfered in the 2016 national election. The report said they hacked Democratic National Committee networks and officials’ emails and selectively leaked material in an effort to damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Last month, Homeland Security officials went even further, saying the FBI had found evidence that Russian-backed hackers had penetrated election systems in 21 states in 2016, including Illinois and Arizona.

Security advocates are “very, very worried” about hackers’ next moves, said Barbara Simons, a prominent San Francisco computer scientist who leads Verified Voting, a nonprofit election-security advocacy group. Simons, who will open the Defcon event Friday at Caesars Palace, said she hopes to use the occasion to kick off her group’s national awareness campaign about “our broken voting system” and require voter-marked paper ballots nationally.

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