Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Chris Krebs, former director of CISA: ‘Impeachment is the right mechanism’

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Our work on rumor control didn’t just start the week or two before the election. The preparation, the due diligence, the discipline that we developed lasted three and a half to four years. And so, when that bad day came when all this misinformation came up, we were good to go. Although, again, when you’re fighting a head of state and battling that kind of misinformation, it’s incredibly difficult.

I’m going to combine two audience issues for the sake of the time. What issues are preventing us from bringing the entire voting system online and can we convince people that the election was fair through some kind of blockchain voting system? I know there have been a lot of objections to both of these approaches over the years, but could you explain why they have not been implemented on a large scale.

CK: If you look at the National Academy of Sciences vote security report, they had some recommendations. First, every vote in the United States must be associated with a paper ballot. There’s a “keep it simple, stupid” element here where you have a record that you can tap, and you can go back and count it, count it and count it.

That’s what they did in Georgia. They counted three times. They are currently conducting a risk limitation audit in Michigan. They are doing a risk-limiting audit of last week’s runoff in Bartow County, Georgia. it is important that you have evidence-based elections with meaningful post-election audit processes.

The problem with the move to the internet voting system is that we are still not able to conduct trusted transactions anonymously. People say, hey, if it’s good enough to do online banking, well, credit cards are popping up everyday. Bank accounts are open every day. And the problem is, money is fungible. A vote is not.

Blockchain is a great mechanism for tracking transactions on a distributed ledger, but the problem is waste. If you vote on one of these platforms and it is not secure and you cannot trust the device, you are just putting trash on the blockchain. In addition, not everyone has a smartphone.

The main takeaway from this National Academy of Sciences report is that we are just not in a place where internet voting or online voting could be considered trustworthy, and let’s get back to basics. Let’s make sure every vote is associated with a piece of paper. This should be the priority, along with those meaningful post-election checks.

We have time to ask the public one more question: What kind of threats aren’t the general public thinking about? Where has our imagination failed? And I will add to that: What is it that keeps you awake at night when you think about threats against the United States?

I think from the perspective of the US government we tend to overthink or focus too much on exquisite threats. We have a fetish for state actors like Russia, China, Iran. In the meantime, the state and local governments of the United States are simply being crushed by ransomware.

I have been encouraged by the increased attention given to the fight against ransomware actors over the past year. And I recently saw the private sector led by Microsoft and a few others grow stronger. We need to bankrupt these bad guys; we can defend whatever we want, but we have to change the business model. We need to disrupt the way they’re paid, whether it’s Bitcoin or whatever, so we need to tackle the bad guys. It’s just a basic block and tackle, but we haven’t done enough.

And then, with disinformation, we are faced with a significant challenge for confidence in democracy and civil society, at large. In the long term, we need to increase the digital literacy of our children, of our school system, of our education system. This is not where it needs to be right now. Too many people are sensitive to what they find online.

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity and length. You can watch the full video of WIRED’s interview with Chris Krebs below.

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