FARGO - In the aftermath of the 2016 election, with strong allegations of Russian interference in the presidential race, and now leading up to midterms, a major question lingers.
"How do we have an election where we're sure that the results are accurate?" asked Jeremy Straub, Associate Director of NDSU Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research.
Even as voters cast their ballots early, there are fears of stolen data and tampering with votes electronically.
NDSU Cybersecurity students and professors are striving to prevent that by teaching and learning how to detect and respond to issues with voting machines.
While they have an older model, many of the ones used today are similar.
For students like Isaac Burton, inspecting a ballot box like this helps lay the foundation to understanding future problems.
Burton studies computer engineering, and knows getting his hands on the machine makes a big difference.
"You can read about this machine all you want, you can read about similar machines, but to actually have one of these in a lab and use tools to use tools to debug and reverse engineer is a lot better," Burton said.
"The ways that you look for problems are constantly changing, there are new techniques but there are some basic principles that stand the test of time," said Straub.
Making sure every vote counts, and is counted, is paramount, so even a small interference can make a big difference.
"Some elections are very close, some come down to dozens or even in some cases just a few votes" said Straub. "Tampering with one machine at one polling place could be enough to perhaps change the actual outcome of the election."
It could even deter people from participating.
"If they go to the poll and that doesn't count, it kind of disenfranchises people from the system and may be less likely to vote," said Straub.
While keeping afloat is one thing, staying ahead of the game is a constant challenge.
Burton said, "The common theme in any sort of cybersecurity is trying to find the vulnerabilities before the bad guys find the vulnerabilities."