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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid