We (almost) hacked the election
I like to carry around a fat stack of gift. Cards punchcards coupons. I can't have all that in my phone. I thought you were about to say you liked to carry around a fat stack of Benjamin's I welcome to Geekwire. I'm Dwyer Editor Todd Bishop Geekwire civic editor. Monica Nicklesberg we're coming to you from Geekwire. Seattle where we get the report. Each day on what's happening around us intech science and innovation. What happens here matters everywhere. And every week on this show we get to talk about some of the biggest and some of the most interesting stories. We've been covering this week. Monica was a giant week for you so I'm glad you're on the show here coming up this week. How Monica almost hacked an election. I don't think that's overstating at all. It might be a tiny bit Amazon. Wants to see president trump in court or at least being questioned by one of its own lawyers and why a big sports stadium in Seattle is going cashless. We're going to see if they can finally come up with some innovative approaches at the sports stadiums in Seattle. But let's jump in with this election story. Monica you talked about this last week we had just been coming off of the Iowa Caucus Deco which. I'm sure everybody has forgotten about by now but there is an interesting test happening right now in the Seattle area where people are voting. Not just online but with their smartphones. Right right. There was an election for a little known organization called the King Conservation District. It's funny when I was editing. The story of yours. I thought Oh it must be the King County Conservation district but no but now it's so obscure that even the name is confusing. Yes it is an organization that manages natural resources in King County. Which if you're not from around here it encompasses Seattle and surrounding communities and it was intentionally chosen because it's a smaller election. You know the organization's behind this mobile voting rollout want to start small. It's a key difference between Iowa where This kind of untested APP was rolled out on the bay stage on the biggest possible electoral moment of Democratic primary. They decided to do this thing. Without testing. In contrast here the most obscure. I don't WANNA say unimportant. But perhaps not the highest stakes. I think that's the friendliest way I can put it. Election there testing. What's really a much more stable and sane way of doing this kind of roll out right. Yeah that's one key difference. Another is that in Iowa. The APP was used to tabulate results whereas this APP here in King County was actually used to vote so decided to test it out. This was great. This is my favorite reporting move of the week and this is something we try to do as part of our reporting whenever we can. It's one thing to ask people about something and write about something but it's another thing to actually do it yourself and you found out some really interesting stuff and even another thing to do it from the comfort of your own couch. Very easy reporting assignment. But that's actually kind of critical to this mobile voting thing because it is really easy and convenient that was my first takeaway. I logged on my phone using my name and my date of birth. I picked the candidate that I wanted. I followed a few prompts. Got Some information and hit submit and it all took less than five minutes probably easier than ordering delivery food. Something interesting happened. Well yeah because I was going through this. I thought there are a lot of people I know whose names and birthdays. I know who probably aren't voting in this election because you know it is a smaller one. It wasn't very widely publicized. My husband for example. I didn't it was gonNA vote in this one so I decided to just see what it would be like to pretend to be someone else and try to vote with them using the mobile voting and I felt in his name and his birthday and I went through the same process all the way up to the signature portion and then I bailed. I did not actually commit voter fraud as far as I can tell. I also Google that and I don't think that I broke the law. This was interesting because I thought as I was reading the story and editing that Oh this must be some kind of mistake clearly. Couldn't just be using is a name and birthdate to verify whether somebody's actually voting but you checked with the people behind the APP. The ones doing this pilot and in fact somebody could do what you did. Because that's all you need. Well I did it right. What you almost didn't always. This is not a concussion. That's true so I caught up with Brian. Feeney WHO's the CEO of democracy. Live the company that built this mobile ballot. And it's actually a Seattle Company and he that the credentials used to look up your voter information the name and the birthday argest that they're only so that you can find your ballot. He said where the security component comes into play is the signature so once you've selected your candidate and moved forward then on your phone or on your computer. You're prompted to sign using either the track pad or the touchscreen and it has a little message that says this signature is going to be compared against your voter records to make sure that it's you which is all well and good but if you've ever bought a cup of coffee from a coffee shop that uses an ipad at their point of sale you know that that signature often just kinda turns into a crazy squiggle. It's hard to sign with a lot of fidelity using a track pad so I asked him about that and he kind of said you know. This isn't any more insecure than the paper mail in voting that Washington does because you sign it right there at your kitchen counter and you could always sign for someone else. I kind of disagree with that though. How would the keep you from voting twice? I mean if they're only using the signature and the birth date and the name to allow you to track your vote. How do they know who you are in the first place? Well they compare it to the signature that they have on file and if anything looks out of place then they'll follow up with you to confirm that it was your vote got it and so they actually are then. It sounds like using your name as you submit it in some form. It's not just for you to track it right. It's it's to look you up. It's two pair your signature with your voter file and once you vote. A paper. Ballot is then printed so that there is an audit trail. But what I pointed out to Brian into our readers is if I decide I wanNA take a life of crime in voter fraud. If we're using Washington's mail in voting system than my victim pool is pretty small. It's probably just my husband. Because his is the only ballot mailed to my door unless I want to. Then add mail theft to my crime spree. So based on my reporting the vulnerabilities here are two. One is either going to have to lower the threshold of fidelity that they use to judge whether a signature is you because everybody signs crazy signatures using their touch screens or they're going to have to invalidate quite a lot of votes and we're going to have to see how this plays out and then the other vulnerability is the difference there between the male and the electronic voting. Because if I want to pretend to be someone else someone. I know's not voting in this election online. That could be anyone whose name and birthday I know. Now the officials behind this say that would get thrown out because my signature wouldn't match but if I were able to get that through the night could cast a false about okay very interesting so either Stephen Carl Deutchman or Chris Porter are going to win this election. In what you could call and historic vote in terms of the technology precedent if not in the King Conservation district itself all right so bottom line. Did this make you more or less confident. In the future of paperless voting. This idea that we could vote from. Our couch is on our phones with our computers rather than mailing a paper ballot or going into a polling station and Semitic one well Bryan Vinnie. Would say this is not paperless voting because a paper ballot gets printed as soon as you vote but I understand your question. I did really appreciate the convenience of this and I really do understand the argument that there are a lot of folks with different abilities. Who can't fill out a ballot or go to a polling place. In the younger generation voters is going to expect to be able to do anything on their smartphone. That's kind of the reality. We're moving toward but it feels like we maybe are moving fast and maybe could be doing it with more input from the security community because trust is just so low right now in election security and in the technology industry frankly and if we push this ahead too fast and there are big issues like we saw in Iowa than it could actually set back the entire thing by quite a bit it's an important reminder. The twenty interference by the Russians was not actually hacking the votes it was influencing opinions. And even that was the subject of investigations at multiple levels of the federal government. When you get to the point where you're actually submitting your vote via smartphone over an Internet connection while I can only imagine the vulnerabilities that that raises so I I'm right there with you. I think this seems like Iowa. Notwithstanding it's a ways off agreed. I do think there was some evidence of Russians trying to hack into voting systems themselves. But I don't think that they were able to actually impact the votes that were counted or tabulated But you know the big picture here is the Russian government and other governments will use the tools at their disposal to impact the outcome of our elections. Or even maybe even more variously to impact our trust in our democratic systems. And that's a huge rescuer or lots to follow here and I know that we'll be watching the outcome of this election very closely. Perhaps more closely than we would otherwise coming up next Amazon. Wants to see president trump in court or at least across the table from its lawyer. welcome back. It's todd bishop with Monica Nicklesberg. We are rounding up the week's News in Tech Monica on Tuesday or Monday of this week. I messaged you on slack and said what a week already. I mean it was crazy. And one of the reasons was there was a ton of back and forth between Amazon and a variety of politicians between donald trump and Amazon before we dive into the real substance of what happened. I have to play this moment. From the Oval Office with President Trump talking about the stock market and all of the companies that have the highest valuation currently in the US stock market if four trillion dollar companies one is Microsoft. One is apple. Google one is Abbas so you have Amazon Google Apple and Microsoft and so you have an m. a. g. and you have a magazine a moment of levity another otherwise very controversial week in Washington DC from president trump in fact Amazon was in the news this week because of what it wants president trump to do. That's right while the president was celebrating. The wild success of the American Technology Industry Amazon took the extraordinary move of asking federal judge to force president trump to sit for a deposition in this lawsuit challenging the award of a really big cloud contract to the company's rival Microsoft. This is the Djeddai contract that we've talked about. On past episodes the Pentagon's ten billion dollar contract to build the US military's war cloud Microsoft one Amazon's upset they're suing and they think the president trump directly or indirectly influence the outcome of this bidding process. They do. They are making the case that the president's animosity toward Amazon and its CEO. Jeff bezos has been made very clear in public statements and they believe that he both publicly and privately sought to in the alleged words of former Defense Secretary James Mattis quote screw Amazon and the animus comes largely. I think from President Trump's regard or disregard for the Washington Post which is owned by Jeff Bezos but is not owned by Amazon and is technically not connected to Amazon but for that common ownership right. There are a number of things that he's taken issue with. He's accused Amazon of ripping off the US Postal Service. He's called Jeff bezos Jeff Bozo. And you know he likes to go after the Washington Post frequently for its coverage of him which has often been unflattering. What IS THE PRESIDENT HERE. Getting a sitting president to sit for a deposition. Does that happen? It's extremely rare especially in a civil case. It's likely unprecedented in a civil case But we just. We don't want to speak in absolutes. As Reporters Rate Bill Clinton sat for position and kind of famously resolved. This question of whether or not you can depose a sitting president. But it's really unusual. So what are the chances here? That trump ends up sitting down for a deposition in this case. I'm not holding my breath. It's possible that the judge could side with Amazon but she's going to be weighing the value of the president's deposition against the burden that it would place on actually getting him to sit down for it and even if she does side with Amazon it will almost certainly be appealed and go through that process likely elevated to the Supreme Court and even if the Supreme Court sided with Amazon the president has a long history of refusing to tip for depositions in other civil cases unrelated to his role in the White House and in the impeachment proceedings if the. Us Congress couldn't do it. I mean Amazon does have a lot of ambition. Maybe they can get done. The most interesting thing about this to me is what it says. Or what. It at least indicates to the outside world about the credibility of Microsoft's cloud initiatives versus Amazon's because Amazon's basic contention here and Andy Jesse the CEO of Amazon Web Services has made this point very clear when I've heard him talk about it is. That Amazon is so superior to Microsoft in the cloud that there is no possible way that anybody could have plausibly looked at their respective bids and decided that Microsoft was the winner. Microsoft contends that its legacy it's history and enterprise. It the fact that it's coming to this from that perspective of shifting companies from traditional on premises servers or data centers to the cloud actually speaks to its capabilities and the reason that the Pentagon would award this contract to them and so to me. It's it's almost as much a public relations battle and it's not so much about the ten billion dollars that Microsoft or Amazon would win through this contract although that's obviously very significant it's about the rest of the trillions of dollars of enterprise. It spending. That's going to be coming out of traditional data centers and servers into the cloud and who has the credibility to claim that they are the leader in that space. So there's tons going on at the political level here but I think there are just as many implications for the long term business prospects of Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud. You're totally right. I think there are huge reputational stakes here an Amazon would say they're also huge stakes for the country because it is very very unusual for a president to wade into the procurement process of a federal agency. That that's pretty rare. And what they're saying. Is this sets a really dangerous precedent? If the president's personal feelings could influence how an agency makes a decision like this but it's also interesting because it's a classic trump in that way in that there's no direct evidence that he said to anybody in the Pentagon. Don't give this contract to Amazon instead. It's all circumstantial including some of the evidence. Amazon is presenting our segments on Fox News when the president was even on the segments it was a Fox News. Host saying things that were aligned with what the president appeared to think. So I the whole thing is just fascinating in terms of the way modern communications politics government. Business contract procurement is working. It's kind of a world turned upside down and a lot of different ways that story. Has everything alright well coming up in our final segment. We are going to continue our tradition now. Two weeks old of diving into sports and the technology. That's coming to a stadium near you. That's coming up next on Geekwire Welcome back it's Todd. Bishop Mannequin Nicholas. Burke joined by Geek Life and apparently sports reporter Chris Lahser. It's time for sports. It's good to have you in Kurt. Thanks for having me all right. So last week you came in with a subject on which I ranted that was the mariners and T. Mobile Park deciding to rule out an augmented reality version of the kingdom. What have you got this week? Well let's head across the street todd to centurylink field home of your Seattle Seahawks and sounders of Sea Hawks and the Seattle Dragon be pumped about fell. Yes how'd they do last weekend? I have no idea the open at home this weekend this weekend. They're expecting thirty thousand people there. Wow that's not what I'm here to talk about. Todd you carrying cash in your carry little cash. What ask centurylink field is going cashless? So if you're a fan of anything that goes on in that venue whether it's sports or concerts or anything at nearby wom theater or the event centers such as the boat show home. Show that sort of thing. They're not going to accept cash anymore. They're going strictly card debit credit. And prepaid is how they put it interesting so if you do show up with cash you can convert it to a prepaid card at. I think ten kiosks located around the venues. What's their logic? Why do this the logic here is that they want you spending time in a concession line and more time in your seat and already proximity seventy five percent of all concession sales and ninety percent of retail purchases throughout the stadium are done with cards so they feel like having visitors not to handle cash and their employees not Atlanta casual speed that whole process? Now I know that this is a subject of debate. Not only here in Seattle with this rollout but also nationally. I want to get to that in a second but first I want to go the other direction. I WANNA get rid of cards. I want to shift purely mobile payments and Monica. You can now explain to me why that would be a horrible idea. Because I know what you're GONNA say well. I'm glad that you mentioned that. There's an option for folks who only have cash because the whole cashless debate really centers around this idea that there are a lot of people who don't have banks who can't have a credit card and it's it's cutting off services to typically low income people or immigrants but it sounds like they've kind of solved for that with the card. I don't think you can solve for everyone who doesn't have a smartphone. Though right I think is a bit extreme and very personal and selfish on my part actually but I keep thinking back to Bill Gates and his landmark book. The road ahead which would be a great trivia question by the way. Bill Gates has a new book coming out later this spring. How many books has Bill Gates written but we can do that on another show. He in that book the road ahead. His first book written with Nathan Myhrvold in Peter. Right near San which would be another great trivia. Question predicted that we would be going entirely with digital wallets in the near future. Essentially that was one of his big predictions and to me. It is still kind of a pain in the butt that you have to carry this wallet around Andrew Phone. They should serve the same purpose. That was the promise of the smartphone. It was the ubiquitous every device. And I think the fact that we still have to carry around cash and a card is just making it so that we're not realizing the full potential of our technology. Utopia one of those people with the really really skinny wallet. No I've thought about that though I just have a plain old. Jc Penney dockers wallet. Look at you like I'm not quite George Costanza level. I do still have. I don't get in here pictures of your fit. There's a phone for that too okay. But I like to carry around FAT STACK OF GIFT. Cards and punched cards and coupons and I can't have all that in my phone I thought you were about to say you'd like to carry around a fat stack Benjamin's. I wish money in your wallet. Here's one one dollar you know I. I got into this habit of trying to charge everything so that we could get airline tickets from whatever card. We're using I mean you know. My wife turned me onto that now. I just I never reached for cash anymore and I I guess I always felt it was kind of annoying to do it at a stadium. Because it's like now I gotta run my car and I potentially have to sign you with my finger or they're going to print a receipt and Blah Blah Blah. It's like just let me pay cash. It's thirty dollars for two beers. Twenty and a an. And how much is that? W Twenty antenna exactly so this is my thing though. Is it true? That cards are faster than cash is the premise of this entire shift valid because I would contend that half the time the connection is slow on the credit card. Some of these machines are older. I don't know what the status of the tech infrastructure in the payments Technology is at centurylink field but it seems to me that in some cases credit cards could actually be slower than cash. Yeah I think a lot of times nowadays of noticed that You don't even have to sign anymore. They swipe done. Yeah that's true. That's sixty thousand people in there. It's a it's kind of amazing that they can handle all those transactions in a speedy speedy manner but you will still be able to use mobile pay as you as you brought up apple pay and Samsung pay at some of the food vendors. Also at the pro shops the cards that you purchased with your cash are usable outside the stadiums you can go over and not worry about having to spend all that big picture. Where's this going to shake out? Do you have a sense for Monica when you look at the debate? Do you think that we're going to end up just using cards or people who are still advocating for cash gonNA win out until there's a real solution that can replace cash which I really can't foresee because of the function that it serves in our economy and society today? I think it would be very hard to move to a completely cashless world and I think that they're going to be lawsuits and Situations like we had in New York where going cashless band. Because there isn't really Alternative for someone. Who's on banked he? Before we wrap up I wanted to point our loyal listeners. And if you're listening this far into the podcast that means you to to other podcasts. From geekwire that you should check out. I Andrew Yang dropped out of the Democratic primary this past week. We got a chance to sit down with Andrew Young during one of his Seattle appearances last year. As part of our numbers Geek podcast that we produced acquire in partnership with Steve Ballmer and his organization USA facts. It was the finale of the numbers. Geek podcast if you search for that. Podcast numbers Geek in your favorite podcast APP. It will be the most recent episode highly recommended lots of Fun and really interesting glimpse into the phenomenon that was the Andrew Young campaign including the chance of powerpoint at Seattle Gasworks Park that was probably the highlight of my year that presidential candidate elicited chance of powerpoint from his supporters and number two more on the local front but with implications globally. I got a chance to sit down recently with the new president of the Fred Hutchinson. Cancer Research Center. Dr Thomas Lynch. That is a conversation in our health. Tech podcast it was really illuminating to speak with him and I highly recommend listening to what he had to say about where we are in a long term battle against cancer so check that out equals health tech podcast and that is it for this episode of Geekwire until next time. I'm todd bishop and Monica Nicklesberg. Kurt Schlosser thanks for listening to Geekwire audio editing and production by Kurt Milton. Music by Daniel L K Caldwell to see all of acquires coverage of science tech business and more go to Geekwire DOT COM. And be sure to sign up for our daily newsletter to catch all of our headlines. Talk to you next time on.