U.S. Voting Machines Hacked at Def Con in Less Than 2 Hours

After nearly an hour and a half, hackers successfully cracked into a voting machine at the global Def Con convention in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — So, just how secure are voting machines used by United States citizens to anoint their elected officials? Not very, apparently.

Hackers at the annual Def Con computer security conference managed to break into voting systems and take control of them in less than two hours, raising concerns that cyber villains could easily manipulate elections results.

Def Con is one of the world’s largest hacker conventions, held annually in Las Vegas. This year’s event, held July 27-30 at Caesar’s Palace, featured the first-ever Voter Hacking Village. Hacker participants were provided about 30 voting machines — including those made by Diebold, Sequoia and WinVote — to prove their mettle.

Some participants physically took machines apart to find and document vulnerabilities. Others gained remote access over Wi-Fi and were able to upload malware to them, according to tech news site The Register.

The notion here was “to raise awareness and find out for ourselves what the deal is. I’m tired of reading misinformation about voting system security,” Def Con Founder Jeff Moss said, according to USA Today.

By the end of the weekend, every one of the roughly 30 machines at the village, including those used to tabulate votes and to check voters in when they go to the polls, had been hacked..

The issue of voting machine vulnerabilities returned to the white hot spotlight, of course, in the wake of U.S. intelligence agencies pointing the finger at Russian hacking efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

While there is no proof that actual vote count was compromised by the Russian efforts, there hasn’t been much research to see if that could happen. Danish researcher Carsten Schürmann used a 14-year old exploit in Microsoft Windows XP operating system to gain remote access to one unpatched machine within 90 minutes. That access would enable him to change the vote tally from anywhere, according to CNET.

“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible,” Jake Braun, CEO of security consulting firm Cambridge Global Advisors, told the Register. “Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how.”

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One response to “U.S. Voting Machines Hacked at Def Con in Less Than 2 Hours”

  1. Todd Nelson says:

    All the more reason to never network voting machines. By keeping each machine a stand alone, hacking any large number of machines will take lots of time and effort, keeping all but the most dedicated and well funded hackers away from the elections.

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