Hacking a voting machine


This kind of makes you question the whole e-voting system. I am not suggesting you try this, but I am suggesting you question the reliability of these systems. Are any of these machines safe? Don’t forget to check out the other, equally disturbing, video on the web site.

The Computer Security Group at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has released a short, chilling video demonstrating how a single person can hack an election on a touch-screen voting system — even one with a so-called “Voter Verifiable Paper Trail” (VVPAT) added to it — in such a way that it is highly unlikely that the manipulation would ever be detected by either the public or election officials.

Read more about Hacking a voting machine

Princeton Hacks The Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine

20 thoughts on “Hacking a voting machine

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is no such thing as a secure voting computer simply because it is not transparent.

    The only way for a poll to be meaningful is if you’re be able to get some Jane Doe off the street, have her observe and scrutinize the whole process.

    You want her to be able to confidently say that she understood it from end to end and is convinced there was no foul play involved.

    So far, the only way I am aware of is pen, paper and manual tally with appropriate double checks.

    The risk of having rigged machines is just not worth the “benefit” of slightly faster results.

    The Netherlands, formerly using voting computers for more than 90 percent of the polls and exporting their machines to other countries just pulled the plug on them recently and are back to pen and paper:


    1. Marc de Vinck says:

      Nicely stated, and thanks for the link.

  2. Ben Johnson says:

    If we’re trusting our elections to companies who run laptops that are supposed to be secure with administrator privileges and Autorun turned on we’re screwed!

    Why is there a separate “testing” mode. They should test the machines in the same mode that they run in? Who’s the genius that thought up this one?

    The machines should say in big flashing lights that their firmware is being upgrades and they should be signed with a private key.

    Why is there a page 1 of 2 on a continuous paper tape?

    How can this system handle write in votes?

    This system is so complicated that it’s bound to fail.

  3. justDIY says:

    sneaking the corrupted USB key into the preparation would have to be done by a corrupted County or State employee. The voting machines in my county are prepared in fairly secure area – where a hacker is not going to be able to just drop a key next to the machine.

    something more forceful than a simple checksum should be used to validate the firmware – or any data off the usb keys for that matter – WTF?!

  4. thecolor says:

    common, why not just let things advance… there is no such thing as “secure” voting anyhow… it can all be tampered with, changed, whatever, even if it’s just a physical check and circle or a hanging chad.

    Computer or man powered, they can all be messed with and faked. So why not just move on and advance. no?

  5. Elliot says:

    A voting system that is not transparent and verifiable by observers from all interested groups is terribly flawed. Such transparency _is_ embodied in the way we count (and recount) traditional paper votes, with observers from the major parties watching each other’s counts.

    The same needs to be true of our electronic voting technology. We need to have an open and inspectable hardware and software platform. Until then, electronic voting should not be used.

    http://openvoting.org/ is one group working toward that end.

    “Thecolor”, you’re too cynical. Secure and open systems are all around you. Why our voting system is not baffles me.

  6. BigD145 says:

    These machines hack themselves. They also end up stored in unsecure locations. I’ve used that exact machine, in a California vote, and had the machine change my vote. I checked the printout and changed it back. At least two other people I know had to redo their vote on the same measure up to 5 times. Pre election day tallies had this particular measure at a near tie between yes and no voters. When the official tally came in, it was 95% against. It was a good measure that would have leveled the playing field between candidates (campaign finance law).

    A week or so before the election there was a groundroots showing of a film on the 2000 election. These same voting machines were in the next room so someone pulled one out, set it up, and had it watch the film with them.

  7. Anonymous says:

    While the opening statement about the transparency is very true, the solution “openvoting.com” suggests doesn’t fly.

    As long as we rely on computers and scanners the voting is not transparent.

    I do not see the urge to toss a perfectly working, time-tested way to reliably and transparently carry out pen and paper elections.

    There is nothing wrong with waiting a little while to get meaningful results.
    How much time exactly did the presidential election disaster in Florida 2000 save ? Even stone knives and bearskins-technology such as punch cards, unreliable counts and ensuing chad-controversy has already created a severe problem.

    Whenever non-transparent methods and software-based polling are involved, there is a high risk of insiders manipulating the polls. Even more so as they administration in place is in charge of “safekeeping” the voting-computers which may or may not keep them in office.

    How much credibility is there still left to be ruined by continuing the control of elections away from the average voter ?

  8. cyenobite2 says:

    May cause anger in Americans who trust their Gov. Officials:

    This is a huge issue. I’m glad to see Make covering this topic.

    Also try to watch the 1:21 HBO documentary “Hacking Democracy”.
    You can see it online at freedocumentaries.org
    (I’m not sure if this is a copyright violation).

  9. Anonymous says:

    why not just use ballot paper … and boxes … where you put a cross in the box ? works here in england ! use a pencil to mark your vote ! no hanging chads .


Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).