Electronic voting machines have been a source of controversy in the United States since 2004, when Ohio’s Diebold voting machines were in the spotlight after President George W. Bush’s victory over John Kerry. Even in the 2016 election, controversy erupted when a group of computer scientists urged Hillary Clinton to challenge the result, citing discrepancies between counties that voted on paper and counties that voted on electronic machines. The Senate, however, has insisted there is no evidence that Russian interference changed the actual vote tally.
Yet at DEFCON, the world’s largest hacking conference, an 11-year-old showed the world just how vulnerable we are.
For the first time ever, the conference featured an area called the “voting village,” where people showed how easy it is to hack electronic voting systems.
According to BuzzFeed News:
In a room set aside for kid hackers, an 11-year-old girl hacked a replica of the Florida secretary of state’s website within 10 minutes — and changed the results.
The National Association of Secretaries of State pushed back, however, stating:
Providing conference attendees with unlimited physical access to voting machines does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments before and on Election Day.
But Matt Blaze, a longtime election security expert, said:
It’s only through scrutiny that we’re going to have confidence in elections. That said, the fact that a system has vulnerabilities in it, even incredibly serious vulnerabilities, is not the same as saying any given election has been tampered with.
Blaze went on:
There’s an interesting paradox. We know these systems are wildly insecure, and there’s been precious little evidence of these vulnerabilities so far being exploited in real elections. I think we’ve been very lucky, and I think there’s a little bit of a ticking time bomb here.
People had harsh words for our elected officials:
Why is our govt refusing to fund states to update & secure their voting systems? Why is there dead silence when citzs ask for paper ballots? Is it the time & logistics of counting pp ballots or is it about contracts with vendors? Something else?
— Gwendolyn J Hughes (@Gwendol69280110) August 12, 2018
The takeaway here should be that gov't agencies need to take this a bit more seriously. An SQLI attack working is the equivalent of locking your front door but opening all your windows….
— Make Racists Afraid Again (@2ndCity3rdCoast) August 12, 2018
I love how their main defense is, “IRL hackers wouldn't likely have this much access to a machine.”
If 99.9% of all voting machines are secure, we're looking at quite a lot of compromised machines.
— Charles Bowman (@maver42) August 12, 2018
Hackers win elections now, candidates don’t. Our votes should be as protected as our money is. Banks are able to keep track of money to the penny. Why can’t the same care be given to our votes?
— C Hagstrom (@CarolynnHagstr1) August 12, 2018
Others had thoughts about the solution:
The voting machines should print out receipts.
— DavidHaroldFinley (@DavidHaroldFin2) August 13, 2018
Paper ballots FFS
— Predisent Joe Provo; Abolish ICE; I do not yield. (@jprovo) August 12, 2018
Paper ballots. Colorado mails them to your residence.
— Suzanne Tyrpak (@SuzanneTyrpak) August 12, 2018
Paper ballots counted by hand
— Teresa Welby (@teresainnj) August 12, 2018
But most were understandably alarmed:
Don't worry—our federal and state governments have assured us that, while the Russians have highly trained and experienced military hackers who desperately want to break into our electoral systems, there's no way they did in 2016 what this 11 year-old did. https://t.co/xPIluJH026
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) August 13, 2018
Any state that goes ahead and uses these machines for the mid-terns is basically enabling a Cyber attack and invalidating their results before their vote even happens.
— Cat Runcie (@CatRuncie) August 13, 2018
Great, I’m feeling so much more confident as an American voter. Paper ballots, paper ballots. In case you didn’t hear me, PAPER BALLOTS!!!!!
— Judy Caughran (@JudyCaughran) August 13, 2018
I would be money that this happened in FL in 2016. Just compare exit polls with so-called results.
— Debra A Cohn (@cohnzohn) August 13, 2018
2018 is nearly here. The ball is in the government’s court.