When Jake Braun first attempted to organize a fundraising event for the Clinton Campaign at the world’s largest hacking conference, he discovered that he sought support from a very unlikely demographic.
“I think I had maybe a dozen RSVPs,” Mr. Braun told one major news outlet. “And then Trump made his comment about giving Russia a pass to hack our election and our RSVPs hit the roof.”
Donald Trump made one of his characteristic blunders during a major news conference when, in response to the hacking of Democratic National Committee servers, he called for Russian hackers to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s private email servers.
Trump later backtracked on his comments, saying that he was being “sarcastic” and didn’t mean for his comments to be taken seriously. However, this particular slip up caught the attention of a hacker movement that generally ignores politics.
Black Hat, the major Las Vegas-based hacking convention where Braun hoped to raise money, is a conference for serious cybersecurity professionals. Its timing overlaps with that of Def Con, a hacker conference considered to be somewhat less serious and more “underground.” Both conferences were founded by Jeff Moss, a man known to most hackers as “The Dark Tangent” and respected widely in the hacker community. Moss votes independently, but agreed to speak at the Clinton campaign fundraiser.
“Whoever the next president is they’re going to have big challenges in cybersecurity,” he said during his speech. “Hillary has talked more to these issues than Trump has.”
“If it wasn’t Trump, the two candidates were similar, then this event wouldn’t have happened. Because the candidates are so different, I think that fear of the unknown is what’s driving a lot of this,” he continued.
Moss went on to state that Clinton’s efforts to help dissidents in foreign countries gain access to the internet constituted a positive mark on her cyber CV, whereas Trump has not chosen a position (and probably does not understand) internet freedom.
That said, Moss’s speech does not imply that Clinton can rely on hackers’ votes. One fundraiser attendee who chose to remain anonymous told a major media outlet that the election seemed to be a choice between “bad and evil.”
Hackers at Def Con told the same outlet reporter, “You’be got one guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You’ve got one lady who knows what she’s talking about, but then she’s not really on our side.”
And hacker hesitation isn’t the only cyber vulnerability at play during the 2016 US election. In many states in America, electronic voting booths are used for casting ballots. Voters are given smart cards loaded with their details that they can use only once for casting their vote. Security experts have long warned that the system is open to vulnerabilities:
“Some of the biggest concerns are manipulation of the cards used to vote, allowing people to vote multiple times,” warned Symantec employee Kevin Haley. “There’s also the collection of the ballots itself. The ballots sit on the electric voting machines, unencrypted.”