Newswise — Fred Cate, vice president for research at Indiana University and an internationally recognized authority on cyber security, is available to discuss the critical technology failure that delayed the results of the Iowa caucuses.

According to Cate:

“Whatever turns out to have been the cause of the meltdown in the Iowa caucuses last night, we’ve already seen demonstrated three important lessons that have broad application - far beyond whoever wins the vote in that small state.

1. Technology fails. And to reduce that likelihood we subject it to rigorous testing to see that it works, that real people can use it, that it stands up under stress and that it is resilient to attack. Iowa’s vote-counting app, developed in secret and deployed without even having a statewide test, didn’t work when the crunch was on.

2. Back-ups are really important. Another blindingly obvious reality is that when technologies fail, and they do, you need reliable, scalable back-ups. Last night, when hundreds of precincts tried to call the Iowa Democratic Party for help, they got busy signals, hour-long delays, and, in some cases, disconnected calls. There just weren’t enough people or phones for this easy, cheap, and reliable back-up system to work.

3. People really foul things up. Early reports suggest much of last night’s cascade failure was due to precincts that hadn’t installed the app early enough or tried it or paid attention to the instructions that they would need a different PIN than the one used for testing. Security protocols reportedly got in the way of some users. In Iowa, many precinct captains have complained that the overworked and not always technically savvy volunteers simply couldn’t cope with all the hoops they were asked to jump through to use the new vote-counting app.

It may be days before we learn anything about who won Iowa, and it likely won’t matter much when we do, but we can take this opportunity to remember some critical lessons about technologies and how to maximize their effectiveness and reliability in our busy lives.”

To arrange an interview with Cate, contact Nicole Wilkins at 812-856-2119, nnwilkin@iu.edu.