Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded a long time ago (and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee agreed) that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections. But election-tampering can take many forms.

Reality check: The American election system is actually made up of 50 different state-run elections, and each state has several systems that are potentially vulnerable. Here’s what you need to know about exactly where our election systems are at risk.

The big picture: Per John Sebes, the CTO at the U.S. Open Source Election Technology Institute: “You really need to regard the attack surface as like Swiss cheese.”

Here are the systems at risk in the election process:

  • Voter registration systems
  • Voter registration databases (which the voter registration process produces)
  • Voter records at polling places (known as poll books, which exist in both printed and electronic versions)
  • Voting machines (which capture the votes)
  • Vote tabulation (when the votes are tallied)

This list doesn't include voter fraud, illegal efforts to influence votes, and problems with news, social media, and information surrounding elections.

The chief vulnerability: internet exposure

Many parts of election systems are at risk of being exposed to the internet — and thereby potentially being inappropriately accessed or meddled with — because of human error or bad security protocols.

Here are some of the main points of risk:

  • Registration interfaces: When people enter their voter registration information online, any vulnerability on users' devices could expose the information they enter to potential bad actors. (Only their individual data should be at risk.)
  • Voter registration databases: Security measures like firewalls and physical network separation can protect these data troves, but no firewall is foolproof.
  • Electronic poll books: E-poll books are the electronic version of the books of voter records that poll workers refer to on Election Day at voting locations. In some instances, e-poll books can send live updates back to the county or state offices using active network connections. If the security on those networks fails, the information could be exposed.
  • Printed poll books: Some counties print their poll books using third-party printers, according to Maurice Turner, the senior technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. That could expose this part of the process to the internet if the third party has bad security protocols or other vulnerabilities.
  • Voting machines: At DEFCON last year, hackers demonstrated that they could break in to any voting machine with wireless connectivity or a USB port.
    • In theory, it would be very difficult to exploit the vulnerabilities physically, because someone would likely notice this kind of tampering. (But it's not unusual for people to take their time in a voting booth, and election officials can't and shouldn't observe every single move that voters make.)
  • Electronic vote tabulation: This can require data from electronic ballots to be transferred to an Election Management System (EMS). Any of the methods used to do that — USB sticks, email, or other internet transfer — can expose the data to tampering if not properly secured.
  • Optical scan vote tabulation: Scanners often tabulate paper records of votes, like a standardized test. But in some cases, these scanners may be rented from third-party vendors, which means they might have been exposed to tampering or bad security there.
  • Election management systems: These systems, used in different locales to tabulate and store voting results, may be at risk of exposure to the internet as well, depending on the jurisdiction's security protocols.

Absence of paper trails: Most of these vulnerabilities are deepened by the lack of paper backups to electronic election systems. In five states there is no paper records of votes, and in nine others the paper record is spotty.

Risks from human error, confusion, and doubt

Any time a human being interacts with a device or a system, things can go wrong.

  • For example, if workers improperly mark that a voter appeared at a polling location, officials could end up with a discrepancy between the tally of total voters who showed up on Election Day and the tally of total number of votes cast.

Why it matters: Mistakes introduced through human error — as when people enter voter registration information incorrectly, or election officials input the wrong numbers by accident — aren't likely to affect an election outcome if they happen at a small scale. But they can add to the confusion in the context of other simultaneous efforts to undermine public trust in elections or to create chaos.

  • And if Russia or another adversary can still claim responsibility for any cascade of errors even if it had no part in them. This tactic — experts call it a "blended attack" — can cause just as much disruption to the elections and cast just as much doubt on their results as more direct interference could.
  • Remember: Most of what the Russians did with regard to election systems in 2016 was probe voter registration records — as far as we know, they didn't change registration records or vote tallies — and that still sparked a national debate.
Be smart

Any vulnerability can be exploited in ways that reduce public trust in elections, and if that's the goal of an adversary like, say, Russia, then the system's credibility could be weakened even if tampering hasn't promoted a particular winner or loser.

Go deeper

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to remove references, in the voting machines section, to breaking into the machines within 90 minutes and to accessing them over the internet.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.