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

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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 Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
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 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.

All About America

AppleAndroid