On Voting Machines

Scientists’ Tests Hack Into Electronic Voting Machines in California and Elsewhere
New York Times (07/28/07) P. A11; Drew, Christopher
A test of electronic voting machines used in California and other states has shown that the machines are easily hacked and there are several ways to alter the vote totals. The tests, conducted by computer scientists from several universities in California, focused on three of the four largest electronic voting machine vendors: Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems.

A report issued by the state of California said that each of the systems had weaknesses that could be exploited to affect the correct recording and tallying of votes. University of California, Davis, computer science professor Matthew A. Bishop, who led one of the testing teams, says his team was surprised how easy it was to pick the physical lock and to bypass the software defenses. Bishop says that every machine had problems, particularly because security features seemed to be added after the basic design of the system was finished. Bishop says the best way to build a secure system is to build security into the system at the start of the design process.

The drastic failure of the voting machines’ security could cause California’s secretary of state Debra Bowen to ban the use of some machines in the 2008 election unless extra security precautions are established and election results are closely monitored. Electronic voting machine industry executives argue that the tests were not conducted in a realistic environment and that no machine has ever been known to have been hacked during an election.

The report was released on the same day members of Congress reached an agreement on measures to add paper records to every voting machine so voters can verify that their ballots were correctly cast and to be used in case of a recount.

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