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The 8-year-olds hacking our voting machines

It's been a rather grim week in the social-media-and-democracy cinematic universe, so let's end on a
August 3 · Issue #179 · View online
The Interface
It’s been a rather grim week in the social-media-and-democracy cinematic universe, so let’s end on a positive note … that starts on a grim note!
“Voting systems in the United States are so woefully hackable, even an 8-year-old could do it.” So begins Issie Lapowsky’s look at a competition to be hosted next week at Def Con, the venerable hacking conference in Las Vegas. The competition in question is being hosted by the Democratic National Committee, who you might remember from such previous hacks as the 2016 presidential election.
Here’s Lapowsky on how it’s going to work:
The contest will include children, ages 8 to 16, who will be tasked with penetrating replicas of the websites that secretaries of state across the country use to publish election results. They’ll vie for $2,500 in prize money, $500 of which will come from the DNC and be awarded to the child who comes up with the best defensive strategy for states around the country.
The eye-popping reason that the Democrats have turned to children to hack them? “State election sites are so deeply flawed, Braun says, no adult hackers would be interested in cracking them. ‘The hackers would laugh us off the stage if we asked them to do this.'”
Ha …………………………………………………… ha?
In any case, this story is notable for at least three reasons. One, our focus — particularly around here — on the ongoing influence campaigns on social media can distract from the ongoing attacks on our actual election infrastructure. Both are worthy of your attention, even if you’re usually only going to get the former around here.
Two, the Democrats’ new security people come from the world of social media. Raffi Krikorian and Bob Lord both worked on security issues at Twitter, among stints at other big tech companies, before arriving at the DNC.
Three, this story serves as a nice reminder that solving our broken-reality crisis will need to involve average people. Tech companies and national governments have a giant role to play, but there’s plenty of work to go around for everyone.
Even the 8-year-olds.

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