News / USA

US Lab Says Electronic Voting Machines Easy to Hack

Kane Farabaugh

As the primary election season gains momentum in the United States in early 2012, voters will head to the polls to cast votes for their preferred candidates.  About 30 percent of Americans will use electronic voting machines, all the way through the general election next November.  A group of researchers at Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, Illinois have determined that those electronic voting machines can be easily manipulated, casting doubt on their security and effectiveness.

Jon Warner’s full time job at Argonne National Laboratory is testing the security strength of the world’s most sensitive areas.

"We do international nuclear safeguards," said Warner. "We break into real security systems."

His part-time job is changing the course of fictitious elections, on real electronic voting machines that more than a quarter of American voters use.

"These machines are modularly designed, so you have a touch screen, that’s a module, and when I press the touch screen, that sends a signal to the CPU," he said. "Well, the CPU is going to respond back with something.  All I did was intercept that communication flow.  If I like the vote, fine let it go through.  If I don’t, change it."

Warner manipulates voting information on the electronic machines using a small, custom-made remote control device.

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.

"We believe that a very resourceful 12 to 13-year-old would be able to essentially produce these alien electronics that can hijack the machine," said Roger Johnston.

Roger Johnston heads up Argonne’s Vulnerability Assessment Team.

"I think our view of the voting machines we’ve looked at is that there really isn’t much security thought put into these devices," he said.

Johnston says security concerns are not isolated to the way the machines are made.

"Often the warehouses where these machines are stored have fairly weak security, but almost universally, these machines are transported by third party low bid trucking companies, where there’s no background checks on these individuals," said Johnston. "Often the machines arrive at a polling place and there’s no one to sign for them or to take responsibility for their oversight.  So there’s often quite a period of time when these machines could be tampered with."

Johnston’s group tested two different electronic voting machines out of about 12 different models.

"We think that the kind of attacks that we’ve demonstrated on these two machines would probably work on quite a number of other voting machines, but we don’t know that for sure - we simply haven’t had the opportunity to try," he said.

The 2000 presidential election was decided by several hundred manually entered votes in the southern state of Florida.  The recount of those votes, and problems in how the ballots were marked, fueled a drive to have more electronic voting machines for the next election.

Johnston says now, the closer the outcome of an election, the greater the role of just one electronic voting machine.

"In the 2008 senatorial race in Minnesota, Al Franken won by 312 votes - that’s one voting machine," he said. "Tampering just a little bit with just one voting machine could potentially have swung that election the other way."  

Johnston says the problem is not isolated to the United States.  The push for faster calculation of election results worldwide is driving up the demand for electronic voting machines.  If those machines are not secure, Johnston says, it could cast doubt on the integrity of the election.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid