A central tenet of democracy is open and fair elections, with the people being the ones who decide who is in charge. That is very much the case in the United States, though the last couple of years has seen our electoral process come under quite a bit of scrutiny.
There are many reasons for that, but one of the main things that has been talked about is Russian meddling. Whether it was with disinformation or even releasing documents they should not have had, there has been — and continues to be — concern about how they or other foreign entities can interfere.
Of all the ways that could happen, hacking into voting machines is arguably the most concerning. And as one person has shown, it’s not that difficult or even time consuming to do.
Yeah, this is not good
Fortunately this happened at DEFCON in Las Vegas, which means there is a chance this problem could be solved before it really becomes an issue. But one person used the annual conference to show that a machine used in 18 different states can be taken over without anyone needing special tools or specific knowledge.
The person behind it all is a woman named Rachel Tobac, and she is the CEO of SocialProof Security. Her company aims to assess social engineering security and educate employees as to how a hacker could obtain information in order to access a respective system.
She seems to have succeeded, as it is quite apparent how simple it would be to hack into the very thing our country is built upon. How simple was it to hack into what appears to be a Premier AccuVote machine? Take a look:
Tobac walks through the handful of steps necessary to infiltrate the machine and gain administrator privileges. It begins with removing the voting machine’s hood with a release button before unplugging and removing its card reader.
She then says you can pick the machine’s lock with just a ballpoint pen, after which she presses a bright red “on” button. The machine will then boot up with an error message, which can be bypassed by pressing “cancel” and then “OK.” That will then grant full administrator access.
But really, how big of a problem is this?
Though Tobac “broke into” one kind of machine, experts point out that most older voting technology would not be difficult to compromise in some fashion. As disturbing as that may be, the reality is not exactly understood by most voters.
Along with this hack, as part of DEFCON’s “Voting Village” exhibit, an 11-year-old girl broke into a replica of the Florida secretary of state’s website and changed results in a matter of minutes, providing more evidence that the days of us being able to just assume the voting is accurate are, if not over, nearing an end.
All that said, none of this proves that voting machines have ever been tampered with in the past, nor that they will be in the future. The hope is that by making the possibility well known, government officials and those behind the voting machine systems will take action to ensure their integrity remains intact.