Electronic voting machines software extremely vulnerable to rigging

October 8th, 2008 - 4:48 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, October 8 (ANI): Rice University in Houston is running an advanced computer security course wherein students are taught just how easy it is to wreak havoc on the computer software used in electronic voting machines.
Associate Professor Dan Wallach, Director of Rice’’s Computer Security Lab, tests his students in a unique real-life experiment as part of his advanced computer science classinstructing them to do their very best to rig a voting machine in the classroom.
In the first phase, the teams pretend to be unscrupulous programmers at a voting machine company. Their task would be to make subtle changes to the machines software that can alter the elections outcome without being detected by election officials.
In the second phase of the experiment, the teams are told to play the part of the election’’s software regulators, and to certify the code submitted by another team in the first phase of the class.
“What we”ve found is that it’’s very easy to insert subtle changes to the voting machine. If someone has access and wants to do damage, it’’s very straightforward to do it,” Wallach said.
What is interesting is that the students will often find the hacks while looking for such changes, according to Wallach.
“While this is a great classroom exercise, it does show how vulnerable certain electronic voting systems are. If someone had access to machines and had the knowledge these students do, they surely could rig votes,” Wallach said.
Though the course would enable his students to find the other team’’s hacked software bugs, Wallach said, in real life that would probably be too late.
“In the real world, voting machines” software is much larger and more complex than the Hack-a-Vote machine we use in class. We have little reason to believe that the certification and testing process used on genuine voting machines would be able to catch the kind of malice that our students do in class. If this happened in the real world, real votes could be compromised and nobody would know,” he said.
Wallach, however, hopes that making students aware of the problem will help motivate them to advocate changes in America’’s voting system, so that the integrity of everyones vote can be ensured. (ANI)

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