How Secure Are Voting Machines?


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As the 2012 presidential election quickly nears, there is more and more debate about the accuracy and safety of electronic voting machines. These doubtful questions are renewed at every election, but not many people completely realize that not only is the voting machine, particularly the touchscreen Diebold Accuvote system, far from safe, but it can be hacked from up to half a mile away and with a ginormous budget of $26. It is disgustingly easy to change votes in the counting machine.

The Diebold Accuvote system, shown above with a sample question, has been under fire for security reasons for almost a decade. In 2006, a Princeton computer science professor and his students set out to test the various ways one could hack the Accuvote, and quickly discovered an extremely low-tech way to hack it with little difficulty.

To start with, each machine uses a memory card housed behind a locked panel. Sounds good, but the lock is the same type used on hotel minibars and jukeboxes. That means that one could have a regular hotel or casino key and use it to open the voting machines! Yikes!

Then, in September 2011, even worse news was revealed by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. A team of scientists on the Vulnerability Assessment team built a contraption that could connect to the Accuvote’s circuitry and automatically change every voter’s ballots to anything the hacker wanted. But that’s not the worst part. This machine could be easily built with a little know-how and some parts amounting to just $10.50. For another $15, the hacker could add a remote control that lets him change the vote from up to half a mile away. So while candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars convincing people to vote for them, one person with an eight-grade science education and $26 can make everyone vote for whoever he wants, regardless of popular opinion.

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(via Mental Floss)

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2 thoughts on “How Secure Are Voting Machines?

    1. I’m not, you’re not, no one should be, but there lies the problem. People are surprised because this isn’t known, so nothing gets fixed. But in another light, if more people did know, then there would be more and more voting machine hacking going on. There’s enough as it is.

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