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Andcherla Marcelin, a Miami-Dade election support specialists, checks voting machines for accuracy. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The hacker conference DEF CON launched its second annual election hacking extravaganza on Friday after last year's conference led cybersecurity enthusiasts to discover several security flaws in election equipment and are poised to do the same thing again this year.

The big picture: One secretary of state argued at the event that the problem may be less about rediscovering how unsecure machines are, and more about getting the funding to do anything about it.

What they're saying: "We spend $700 billion for defense," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told Axios. "Last week, the White House said that election security was a national security issue. For less than 1 tenth of 1%, Congress could make a world of difference."

The event: Padilla was one of several high profile attendees at this year's conference. He and Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communication Jeanette Manfra both spoke at the event and several Homeland Security cybersecurity experts participated in the hacking.

The background: Congress fronted $380 million for new election systems earlier this year — but that money came from a fund started more than a decade ago.

  • "The money Congress appropriated last month isn’t cybersecurity money, it’s still hanging chad money," said Padilla, who would later echo the remarks at a panel. "We need cybersecurity money."
  • Padilla noted that the changing cybersecurity landscape requires continually updated systems and replacing equipment. The one-time Congressional gift would not be enough for every state to make necessary repairs, let alone keep systems secure on any long-term basis.

State officials worry the hacking event will be misconstrued. The speed and thoroughness with which hackers tunneled into voting machines and a poll book last year received widespread press coverage.

  • On Thursday, the National Association of Secretaries of State said it supported the hacking event this year, but wanted to be clear the hacking did not accurately represent real world conditions.
"Providing conference attendees with unlimited physical access to voting machines...does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments. "

Hacking voting machines often needs to be done with physical access to each machine. Following proper security hygiene guidelines, including limiting access to machines, minimizes those threats.

  • Still, the DEF CON event is very useful, argue Manfra and Padilla. "I'd rather learn what to defend against here than from a hacker," said Padilla.

Go deeper

28 mins ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.