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How to hack a Diebold voting machine, part 2 October 2, 2006

Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias".
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In August I posted a link to a video showing how easy it is to open and hack a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine.

Now, the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy has produced a report showing that hacking the AccuVote-TS is not only easy, it’s completely untraceable.

For those (including myself) with relatively little patience for twenty-four-page research papers, here is a abstract of their findings:

This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine’s hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.

Better still, here’s a video demonstrating the results:

The solution is for citizens to demand voter-verified paper records — printouts showing each voter how the machine recorded their vote — and manual audits of these records. As I write this, thirteen states (including California — yay!) have laws in place guaranteeing these protections when e-voting machines are used.

Of several websites of organizations tracking this problem, I recommend Verified Voting.org. Open Voting Foundation and Black Box Voting are also good sources of information. Here’s a New York Times article on the situation.

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