The smartphone app glitch that delayed results in the Iowa caucuses this week could have been much worse -- the app itself is vulnerable to hacking, ProPublica reported.
The IowaReporterApp was so insecure that vote totals, passwords and other sensitive information could have been intercepted or even changed, Massachusetts-based Veracode told the news organization after a review of the software.
“It is important for all mobile apps that deal with sensitive data to have adequate security testing, and have any vulnerabilities fixed before being released for use,” Chris Wysopal, Veracode’s chief technology officer, told ProPublica, calling it a “poor decision” to release the software without first fixing the problems.
There’s no evidence hackers intercepted or tampered with caucus results.
Gerard Niemira, CEO of the app’s maker, Shadow Inc., said in a statement to ProPublica that “we are committed to the security of our products, including the app used during the Iowa caucuses. While there were reporting delays, what was most important is that the data was accurate and the caucus reporting process remained secure throughout."
He added no “hack or intrusion” occurred during the caucuses, and that “the integrity of the vote in Iowa was not compromised in any way.” The app is not currently in use, he told ProPublica.
But experts were appalled about the possible vulnerability to hacking.
“This is an extremely serious vulnerability,” J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and chief scientist at the security firm Censys, told the news organization.
“An adversary could exploit it to intercept and change caucus results as they were being submitted through the app. Such a change would probably be caught eventually, if officials carefully compared paper return sheets from each location to the computerized results, but it still would have cast doubt on the whole process in peoples’ minds.”
“With all the attention that’s supposed to be going into election security, it’s shocking that code with this problem made it into production,” he added. “It’s total amateur hour.
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