Election Day is just over a month away and while many people are thinking bout who they’re going to vote for, others are concerned about how they’re going to vote. After the hanging chad debacle of 2000 a few states (including Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland) decided to start embracing electronic voting machines. These machines were supposed to help negate human error when it comes to counting votes. But this brave new frontier opened a whole new, potentially more detrimental, world of problems. Namely, hacking.
Though a specific incident hasn’t occurred, many experts agree that the electronic voting machines’ wireless capabilities could lend itself to easy tampering. Joel Schectman’s piece for the Wall Street Journal takes a look at Virginia’s bumpy electronic voting history, which includes some well documented concern. The main issue? Wireless access means tamperers no longer have to be in the polling place to effect a machine.
It makes it easier to hack systems when you have an open interface that can be accessed remotely from outside the polling place, like in a parking lot,” said Jeremy Epstein, a computer researcher who helped draft the state’s legislation to bar wireless from polling stations. “It magnifies any other vulnerability in the voting system.” …
Epstein, the computer scientist who helped draft the law and co-founded the advocacy group Virginia Verified Voting, testified that wireless technology would make it easier for hackers do more damage and go undetected.
“If you are attacking machines by physically going into a polling place, you have to do them one at a time, and there are opportunities to get caught,” Epstein said. ”Wirelessly you could affect all the machines in a polling place or in a precinct by driving from one location to the next.” …
Hacker attacks have only become more sophisticated in the five years since the wireless ban was passed and then changed. “The defenses have not improved over the past five years and the risks have gotten much worse,” Epstein said.
Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal >>>
With the sharp rise of hacktivism and the seemingly ever present threat from Anonymous these days I’m sure Epstein is even more concerned going into the 2012 election.
To top it all off, the company that sold these AVS WinVote electronic voting machines (to Virginia at least) is no longer in business. This makes me wonder if the machines are getting regular software updates and bug patches. We all know that hackers are coming up with new ways to crack systems and take advantage of vulnerabilities, so these voting systems need constant upkeep.
So what do you think? Are electronic voting machines a target for hackers? Do you think the political hacking atmosphere of the last year will encourage groups to target these potentially vulnerable systems? What should be done to shore up the software and network security around polling places?