How Easy is it to Hack a Voting Machine? How about 7 Minutes.
Politico magazine have a lengthy article that weaves the history of ‘vote rigging’ and ballot stuffing with the context of what lead us to where we are today with electronic voting machines (namely, the 2000 “hanging chad” controversies), topped with both theoretical and actual hacks of voting machines.
The article doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of the machines used, like their OS or types of ICs seen on the PCB in the image below, but it does give a glimpse into some of the logic behind voting machines, and how to exploit their loopholes, among other insinuated features of Direct Recording Electronics, the industry-term applied to voting machines. This pull-quote jumps out at me, for sure:
“Wow, these are a bad idea. They’re just computers, and we know how to tamper with computers.”
If nothing else it’s a commentary on where we are today technologically with voting!
When Princeton professor Andrew Appel decided to hack into a voting machine, he didn’t try to mimic the Russian attackers who hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s database last month. He didn’t write malicious code, or linger near a polling place where the machines can go unguarded for days.
Instead, he bought one online.
This week, the notion has been transformed from an implausible plotline in a Philip K. Dick novel into a deadly serious threat, outlined in detail by a raft of government security officials. “This isn’t a crazy hypothetical anymore,” says Dan Wallach, one of the Felten-Appel alums and now a computer science professor at Rice. “Once you bring nation states’ cyber activity into the game?” He snorts with pity. “These machines, they barely work in a friendly environment.”
“In American politics, an onlooker might observe that hacking an election has been less of a threat than a tradition. Ballot stuffing famously plagued statewide and some federal elections well into the 20th century. Huey Long was famously caught rigging the vote in 1932. Sixteen years later, 1948 saw the infamous “Lyndon Landslide,” in which Johnson mysteriously overcame a 20,000 vote deficit in his first Senate race, a miracle that Robert Caro reports was the almost certain result of vote rigging. But even an unrigged election can go haywire, as the nation learned in horror during the Florida recount in 2000, when a mind-numbingly manual process of counting the ballots left a mystery as to which boxes voters had punched—giving the nation the “hanging chad,” and weeks of uncertainty about who won the presidency.
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