Hail to the hackers who protect our democracy

    Congratulations this evening are due to the folks at University of Michigan’s computer science department. Encouraged by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics last week to identify vulnerabilities in a new electronic voting platform, a U-M team, headed by Professor J. Alex Halderman, was not only able to penetrate the system, but to have it play Hail to the Victors each time a vote was cast. According to press reports, the non-profit political advocacy group Common Cause, as well as numerous computer scientists, had warned of security risks inherent in the system, the construction of which was funded by the federal government, but their concerns were dismissed by officials… To the credit of the Board of Elections, however, they did eventually open their new system up to scrutiny of the U-M team and others in the hacking community. To my knowledge, that is something that hasn’t been done by the likes of Diebold, the Ohio-based maker of electronic voting terminals now used in over 30 states, probably for fear of the exact same thing happening…. Hail to the Victors.

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      6 Comments

      1. Elizabeth
        Posted October 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        If you’re interested in the techy-details of it, Alex has written a blog about the experience here: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/jhalderm/hacking-dc-internet-voting-pilot

      2. Posted October 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Elizabeth. I can’t wait to read it.

      3. Edward
        Posted October 6, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Damn, I was pulling for the Chinese.

      4. Elf
        Posted October 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Someone should steal a Diebold machine.

      5. Robert
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:37 am | Permalink

        If I had the money I’d hire hackers to hack all the electronic voting machines in the country this November 2nd and make it appear as though the executives at Diebold had won all the elections.

      6. Tbot
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        From WWJ:

        The national media’s reporting on the successful efforts of a group of University of Michigan computer scientists to hack into the District of Columbia’s new Internet voting platform for military and overseas families focused on the cute: they got the Web application to play the UM fight song, “The Victors,” when a vote was submitted.

        But more ominously, they were also easily able to change votes at will, potentially giving them the ability to overturn the results of an election.

        So it won’t be all chuckles when the UM’s Alex J. Halderman testifies before the D.C. City Council Friday morning.

        The D.C. Board of Ethics and Elections designed a “Digital Vote By Mail” system in which overseas and military voters could receive blank ballots and cast them over the Internet using PDF files. During a test period, Halderman and a team of students were able to infiltrate the election system within 36 hours and gain complete control over the server, reporting that they were able to change ballots at will.

        Computer experts have long warned that security risks inherent to the Internet could make voting online a national security concern and many urged the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics not to adopt an Internet voting program. Yet this election The New York Times estimates that nearly 3 million voters in 33 states could cast ballots over the Internet using email and efax as state election officials have moved to implement online voting programs despite the known security flaws.

        Cyber security experts and election integrity groups Common Cause, Verified Voting and Voter Action encourage the online delivery of blank ballots to overseas voters, but warn that returning voted ballots over the internet is just too risky to adequately ensure that a voter’s ballot will actually count as cast.

      2 Trackbacks

      1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Maynard, Bloody Democracy. Bloody Democracy said: Hail to the hackers who protect our democracy http://bit.ly/aQXnmA [...]

      2. [...] month, I told you about a University of Michigan team headed by Professor J. Alex Halderman that successfully hacked their way into a new electronic voting system launched by the D.C. Board of Elec…. By altering vote counts, and having the electronic voting machines play the Michigan fight song [...]

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