Computer Crime Research Center


Hacking into elections

Date: September 21, 2006
By: Ann Imse

Some computerized voting machines approved by Colorado officials for November's election can be reprogrammed over the Internet, according to expert witnesses for the group trying to prevent their use.

The witness reports are among the documents filed for Wednesday's trial in the case, which claims the state failed to follow state law in certifying the machines. If Denver District Court Judge Lawrence Manzanares bars the now widely used equipment, Colorado could be left scrambling for a way to conduct a vote in seven weeks.

The four types of computer systems in question are manufactured by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Hart, and are used in some fashion by every county in the state, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. Citizens cast their votes electronically, using a touchscreen or other device.

The nonpartisan group of plaintiffs says the machines are too vulnerable to hacking.

One group from Princeton University said that given one minute of privacy in an election warehouse or polling place, they could unscrew a plate on a particular Diebold machine and use a tiny flash drive to install software to skew the vote.

Diebold says the university hackers used an outdated model in that experiment.

Both of the expert witnesses presented by the plaintiffs in Colorado have doctorates in computer science and work as university professors. The state employee who certified the systems for use, John Gardner, has no academic training in computers.
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