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It’s Way Too Easy to Hack Some Voting Machines [Video]

Don't worry! Just keep voting.
tamperingvoting Its Way Too Easy to Hack Some Voting Machines [Video]

Don’t do this. (screengrab)

The Argonne National Laboratory’s Vulnerability Assessment Team specializes in assessing security weaknesses. They examine physical devices like locks, seals, security tags–and voting machines. How easy is it to hack certain brands of voting machine? Turns out Argonne’s Roger Johnston discovered it was way too easy to hack the touchscreen Diebold Accuvote-TSX. That’s a little alarming, since versions of this machine will be used to cast up to 9 million votes on Tuesday, November 6th. (You know, tomorrow.)

In an article in Popular Science magazine, Mr. Johnston explained that he used a “man-in-the-middle” hack on one of the Diebold machines, simply attaching a small microprocessor that allowed him to essentially interfere with whatever the voter intended to do. Worse still, Mr. Johnston says you can do this with pretty much any voting machine, because as far as he knows, most of them are not encrypted. One thing, however, works against any would-be voting machine hacker’s malevolent, vote-stealing intentions:

The attacks require physical access. This is easy for insiders, who program the machines for an election or install them. And we would argue it’s typically not that hard for outsiders. A lot of voting machines are sitting around in the church basement, the elementary school gymnasium or hallway, unattended for a week or two before the election. Usually they have really cheap cabinet locks anyone can pick; sometimes they don’t even have locks on them. No one signs for the machines when they show up. No one’s responsible for watching them. Seals on them aren’t much different from the anti-tamper packaging found on food and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Think about tampering with a food or drug product: You think that’s challenging? It’s really not. And a lot of our election judges are little old ladies who are retired, and God bless them, they’re what makes the elections work, but they’re not necessarily a fabulous workforce for detecting subtle security attacks.

Mr. Johnston also said anyone with a little money and know-how could take over a machine with a $10 remote-controlled device, writing, “I want to move it to the point where grandma can’t hack elections. We’re not there.”

For such a serious subject, the video below has a ridiculously incongruous soundtrack. But it illustrates exactly how a voting machine hack might work.

Follow Steve Huff via RSS. shuff@observer.com

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