Why computerized voting machines are a threat to democracy
For years, election integrity activists have been warning the public about the vulnerabilities that arise from computerized voting machines. Here’s a little bit of news for all the naysayers who have been smearing the “Cassandras” – the anti-black-box-voting activists are right.
Hackers at Las Vegas’ annual DEF CON event were tasked with breaking into computer-powered ballot boxes simulating a race for the White House.
It took under 90 minutes for tech-savvy attendees to physically open the machines and break down the system’s defenses, according to The Register U.K.
One of the booths was wirelessly hacked by a participant, the publication reported.
Jake Braun, who got DEF CON founder Jeff Moss to agree to the challenge idea earlier this year, told The Register that the exercise proves just how vulnerable the U.S. is to voter fraud.
The Register adds commentary and provides juicy details for the geeks:
“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, who sold DEF CON founder Jeff Moss on the idea earlier this year.
“The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security.”
The machines – from Diebolds to Sequoia and Winvote equipment – were bought on eBay or from government auctions, and an analysis of them at the DEF CON Voting Village revealed a sorry state of affairs. Some were running very outdated and exploitable software – such as unpatched versions of OpenSSL and Windows XP and CE. Some had physical ports open that could be used to install malicious software to tamper with votes.
It’s one thing to physically nobble a box in front of you, which isn’t hard for election officials to spot and stop. It’s another to do it over the air from a distance. Apparently, some of the boxes included poorly secured Wi-Fi connectivity. A WinVote system used in previous county elections was, it appears, hacked via Wi-Fi and the MS03-026 vulnerability in WinXP, allowing infosec academic Carsten Schurmann to access the machine from his laptop using RDP. Another system could be potentially cracked remotely via OpenSSL bug CVE-2011-4109, it is claimed.
Greetings from the Defcon voting village where it took 1:40 for Carsten Schurmann to get remote access to this WinVote machine. pic.twitter.com/1Xk3baWdxv
— Robert McMillan (@bobmcmillan) July 28, 2017
Let us translate geekspeak to English: these machines need to be taken offline before the next election and replaced with countable paper ballots.