Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have developed a hack that, for just over $20 and an 8th-grade science education, can remotely manipulate electronic voting machines.
The researchers, according to Salon, performed the hack on a Diebold Accuvote TS electronic voting machine, a type of touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting system that is widely used for U.S. government elections.
Diebold’s voting-machine business is now owned by Dominion Voting Systems, whose e-voting machines are used in approximately 22 states.
In the video below, Roger Johnston and Jon Warner from Argonne National Laboratory’s Vulnerability Assessment Team demonstrate three ways an attacker could remotely take control of the machine merely by attaching a piece of “alien electronics” to the circuit board.
The tool basically consists of a $1.29 microprocessor and an $8 circuit board. In conjunction with the $15 remote control, which allowed researchers to alter votes from up to half a mile away, the whole hack costs about $26.
Two of the hacks show the researchers controlling the buttons on the keypad regardless of what the “real” voter enters. Further, in what Warner refers to as “probably the most relevant attack for vote tampering,” the researchers were able to completely blank the machine’s screen for a nanosecond after the “vote now” button was pushed. While the screen was blank, they then remotely entered their own numbers into the keypad.
Johnston explains in the video: “When the voter hits the ‘vote now’ button to register his votes, we can
blank the screen and then go back and vote differently and the voter will be unaware that this has happened.”
Johnston and Warner say this makes the clear case for the fact that these e-voting machines need much better security.
“Spend an extra four bucks and get a better lock,” Johnston said. “You don’t have to have state-of-the-art security, but you can do some things were it takes at least a little bit of skill to get in.”