By: Marc King

Does the Biden Administration Really Understand the Threat from China — Does America?

Recently, an article appeared in the tech publication VICE with the headline: DARPA Is Building a $10 Million, Open Source, Secure Voting System. For those not familiar with DARPA it is an acronym for the Defense Department’s… “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency” … and past personal experience would say that they are the true “out of the box” thinkers in the DoD.

The article addresses the need for a secure voting system, one that all Americans can be confident in when they step into the voting booth. One cannot argue with the need for such a system given the performance we all saw in the 2020 election. However, there appears to be a serious flaw in what DARPA is proposing as the way to achieve this goal. The vendor selected to lead this effort goes into some detail regarding their efforts to design two separate systems, one for marking ballots and one for scanning ballots that is essentially un-hackable. They go on to say:

“Our goal is to make this so that the hardware is blocked against all of these various types of attack from the external world. If this is successful, and if the software put on top is equally successful, then it means people can’t hack in and … alter votes. It would also mean that the person who votes would get some verification that they did vote and all of that would be done in a manner that hackers couldn’t change,”

So far so good.

However, the article goes on to say:

The DARPA secure hardware program involves six teams from several universities as well as Lockheed Martin. Each team was tasked with creating three secure CPU designs. Galois, which is part of the SSITH project, plans to build its voting system on top of the secure hardware designed by these teams, and will create a prototype for each CPU design”.

Now, let’s look at the headline for the Washington Times dated February 11, 2021…

“How Biden is allowing Chinese govt. to quietly creep onto U.S. college campuses”

So, what is going on here…?

“The Department of Homeland Security has dropped plans for a federal rule that would have required American schools and universities to disclose agreements with Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes on their campuses. A Federal Register notice said the rule, first proposed Dec. 31 at the end of the Trump administration, was withdrawn Jan. 26 without comment”.

The article goes on to tell us…

“By quietly backing away from the proposed rule without consulting Congress, the Biden administration is sending a concerning signal about its scrutiny of [Chinese] influence in academia and telling academic institutions that they don’t need to be transparent about their ties to China’s regime,”

Take note…

“A Chinese government official, Liu Zhongshan, was arrested in October 2019 on federal visa fraud charges related to the recruitment of American technology experts”.

It is well known that there is an extraordinarily high number of Chinese national students attending our most rigorous engineering schools in the country. They come to study and learn and then they return to China. The focus of their studies are advanced engineering, cyber related disciplines, and advanced physics. So, at this point we need to connect the dots…

DARPA has told us …

“The DARPA secure hardware program involves six teams from several universities…”

The media has told us

“Biden is allowing Chinese govt. to quietly creep onto U.S.
college campuses”

So, now we must ask ourselves… What are the odds that there will be one or more Chinese students… who’s interests, loyalties and allegiance are to the Chinese Communist Party end up working on what DARPA is planning on developing for the US Voting system”? I would have to say the odds are in favor of the Chinese on this one.

I am not impugning DARPA’s efforts nor am I trying to deny Chinese students from attending our universities. I am simply pointing out a potential flaw in this effort. If you want to have a completely secure system I would submit that you cannot have the very same people who design it return to their homeland where they can be pressured into hacking it at some time in the future… common sense and logic dictate that this is not a sound plan. And I am not sure that common sense prevails in this case.

In my own personal experience, I have encountered a similar situation regarding Chinese national engineering students and their access to otherwise “restricted” US Government information. Just a few short years ago I was the President of the largest manufacturer of ceramic body armor for the US Defense Department. As such I was asked by the government to work with a Professor in the Engineering Department at UC Irvine on a contract she was awarded to develop a “crack sensor” for the ceramic component of the body armor. Not a simple task as noted by 65 previous attempts that all failed to meet the governments requirement. Please know that not only is the body armor “restricted”, International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) controlled material which means only US citizens and permanent alien residents, Green Card Holders, can know how it is made and what it is designed to defeat on the battlefield… but the facility in which it is made is closed to all foreign nationals.

However, one day a group of 3 Chinese national students presented themselves at reception requesting access to my ballistic test range so they could test their sensor solution – it was assigned as class work. A few questions later and it was discovered that they had full and open access to “restricted” body armor through their studies at the university. They were not allowed in. The experience is provided to demonstrate how it is that Chinese technology can quickly and easily overtake the advances that are being made in the US technology arena.

So, kudos to DARPA for trying to make our voting system one that we can trust… but they must be keenly aware that if they rely on solution providers at our universities… the chances that their system will be hacker proof are greatly diminished by actions of an Administration that is more interested in China’s success then in America’s.

That leaves us with the question asked in the beginning —

Does the Biden Administration Really Understand the Threat from China — Does America?



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