Are Iowa Voting Machines Secure?

In Short, No.

I had a Scott County official get mad at me when I stated that Unisyn machines used by 66 counties in Iowa are vulnerable, because they’re made by a Chinese owner.  We use ES&S machines, our machines ARE NOT connected to the Internet, this official countered.  My response was that we simply don’t know, nor can the County Auditor nor SOS Paul Pate can attest to that.  We may own the machines and the manufacturers may claim that the machines aren’t connected to the Internet, but we have no control over what the manufacturers and their agents can do to our machines under the guise of installing “patches” and “updates”.

Just because the Auditor doesn’t have a contract with an Internet provider to “connect” the machines to the Internet, doesn’t mean the machines aren’t communicating with people intent on altering the results.  There are so many ways this can be accomplished, with or without the knowledge of any of the officials involved in running an election at the precinct or county level, let alone at the state level.

Let me put it to you this way; have you ever used your phone to pay for something by waving or tapping it at a register?  By design, Near Field Communications (NFC) registers are designed for short range, i.e. 3 – 5 inches.  But that’s by design. What if someone designed NFC to maximum range, so now, the machine can communicate with the poll worker’s phone lying a foot away from one of the machines. 

And since it’s estimated that China has a database almost all Americans, how hard would it be for them to target poll workers’ phones because the CCP got their cell numbers from the Auditor’s database?  There’s a reason why all cell phones are secured in a locker, preferably with a Faraday Cage, before people are cleared into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

How about those COVID Contact Tracer apps, that alert you whenever you’ve been close to someone that tested positive?  Now we’re talking Bluetooth technology, with a range measured in dozens of yards.  Any domestic or foreign adversary, intent on disrupting elections, doesn’t even have to hack some database, they can simply buy the voter rolls, complete with demographics and phone numbers from the Secretary of State.  So now, any voter that walks into a polling place is instantly a waypoint beacon for election data to flow between machines and destinations unknown.

We’ve touched on NFC and Bluetooth, let’s talk about Wi-Fi.  Maybe a precinct election is being held at a state of the art “Green” facility, with extensive use of smart meters, smart security cameras, smart thermostats, smart “whatevers”.  Because “Smart” simply means an Internet of Things (IOT) via Wi-Fi.  So now, that building can be used as a “Internet connected” vector for malicious people to tamper with the election results.

Maybe you’ve never heard of IOT, the concept became a reality right around Y2K, surely you remember that.  The best early Hollywood representation of IOT, was produced by Steven Spielberg, the 2008 film, Eagle Eye — meaning the script was written at least 2 years prior.

Do you get the picture now?  Some may say Sci-Fi is just fantasy, but maybe Sci-Fi really are just spoiler alerts for future events.  Some of the things you might have seen in the above clips; remote control of machines, including cars, siphoning up of social media posts, videos, pictures and other personal information, etc.  All issues of the day now.

Election Air Gap Myths is written by Patrick Colbeck and he gives a complete rundown on these myths, please go and read the complete article.  But here are some choice snippets:

Election officials all across the nation are being treated to a plethora of security jargon from electronic voting system vendors intended to convince them that the data connections for their voting equipment are secure. Here’s a sample of vendor jargon to be on the watch for:

  • “Your data is transferred over a cellular network”
  • “The system is not connected to the internet…during tabulation”
  • “We have a firewall”
  • “Your data is encrypted”
  • “We use secure VPN technology”
  • “Your system is air gapped”

Such vendor claims often result in claims by election officials that they are “not connected to the internet”. But is that true? In general, no. Why? Everyone of those responses imply that the voting system IS connected to the internet. They simply attempt to hide that fact with security jargon.

No one can deny that during an election cycle there is a transfer of election data from precinct-level tabulators to results aggregation systems at the municipal, county, and state levels.

Patrick goes on to explain where the vulnerabilities exist:

The fact remains that the security of any electronic voting system and, therefore, the security of the election record chain of custody is vulnerable at any time between the time the election equipment (hardware, software, network configuration) is certified and the election itself is certified. If election officials are unable to validate the security of their voting system configuration during that time, any election data transferred during that period may have been compromised.

Patrick then concludes with this:


If your election official insists their voting system is “air gapped”, I encourage you to ask them the following questions:

  • What standards do you use to certify the software configuration of your voting machines?
  • Who verifies compliance of the software configuration for each machine with these standards? When?
  • Would you classify the installation of non-certified software on election equipment as an “irregularity” that needs to be investigated?
  • Are you aware that multiple technical experts discovered the installation of SQL Server Management Studio on Antrim County election equipment?
  • Are you aware that SQL Server Management Studio is not part of the Election Assistance Commission certified software configuration?
  • Are you aware of why this software is not allowed as part of the certified software configuration? Do you know what functions it is capable of?
  • Do you believe that the installation of non-certified software capable of changing election results would be grounds for decertification of the election? If not, what do you believe is the appropriate criteria for the “certification” of an election?
  • What standards do you use to certify the hardware configuration of your voting machines?
  • Who verifies compliance of the hardware configuration for each machine with these standards? When?
  • Do you connect any of your election voting equipment to any any other electronic devices during the period of time between the software and hardware certification of your machines and the certification of the election results? If so, by what means (e.g. Wi-Fi, Ethernet, 3G/4G Modem)?
  • Are your communications encrypted? If so, who controls the encryption keys used?
  • Do you have a list of all of the IP and MAC addresses for all election equipment and connected network devices used during the election? If not, how do you secure the chain of custody pertaining to electronic voting records if you do not know what devices have access to those records?
  • Do you have a record of the connection settings for any applications transferring data to external networks? Do you know with absolute certainty whether or not these connection settings allow for two-way data transfers? If so, how do you know?
  • Have you completed a software audit of all devices connected to your election voting equipment? Hardware audit? If not, why not? If so, when? How?
  • Do you connect any of your election voting equipment to election equipment at municipal offices? County offices? State offices? By what means?
  • Do you have access to traffic logs for all of your network devices (e.g. routers)? Where are these logs stored? How are they secured?
  • Do you believe that if any one of these networked devices are compromised, the election record chain of custody is compromised?
  • Have you been told by vendors that your voting systems are “air gapped”?
  • If so, what proof were you provided of this assertion?
  • Are you aware of the discovery of a 4G Wireless modem being found installed on the motherboard of an ES&S 200 voting machine? (i.e. every time the machine was turned on, it was telling the internet “here I am”)
  • Are you aware that there is evidence of this device communicating with foreign servers (Taiwan, Germany) during the election cycle?
  • Does it concern you that there is evidence of foreign communications with our election system?
  • Have you inspected the motherboards for your voting systems to preclude the existence of any wireless modems?
  • Do you drop off your equipment to third party vendors for “maintenance”?
  • Do you certify the configuration of your equipment before drop off and upon return? If so, how do you certify the configuration? If not, how do you verify that the chain of custody for the election has not been subverted as a result of configuration changes made by your vendor or parties to which the equipment was shipped out by vendor?
  • Do you have the administrative account credentials for your election management system?
  • Do you have the administrative account credentials for all electronic devices within your jurisdiction (e.g. servers, laptops, routers)?
  • Do you have the administrative account credentials for any database management software used to support election management?
  • Do you share your administrative account credentials between personnel or does each individual have their own account credentials?
  • When was the last time you changed your account credentials?
  • Do any vendors have administrative account credentials for your voting equipment? If so, have you ever conducted an audit of their administrative activity on your election equipment?

Do you believe that your election officials are ready to answer the questions above? If not, how can they or anyone assert that the 2020 general election was the “most secure election in history”?

Please do go and check out Patrick’s website as he has a comprehensive blog on our Election Insecurity at

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