As hackers sit down to break into dozens of voting machines here in Las Vegas this weekend, some state and local election officials that have flown in to witness the spectacle at one of the world’s largest hacking conventions are becoming increasingly concerned about another threat to November’s midterm elections: information warfare. Organizers of a “voting village” at the annual Def Con hacker convention have packed a conference room at Caesars Palace with voting machines and have asked civically-curious hackers to wreak havoc. The event, now in its second year, is supposed to demonstrate vulnerabilities in America’s vast election infrastructure. After a few hours on Friday, one hacker was essentially able to turn a voting machine into a jukebox, making it play music and display animations. While such hacks are a cause of concern for election officials, they are increasingly looking beyond the threats against traditional election infrastructure like voting machines and voting databases and more to the threat of disinformation. What, some of them ask, if they fall victim to a coordinated information warfare campaign?
… In Vegas, Def Con organizers arranged for mock versions of some swing states’ election board websites, where results are posted, to be built to identify potential vulnerabilities.
“Unfortunately, it’s so easy to hack the websites that report election results that we couldn’t do it in this room because [adult hackers] would find it boring,” said Jake Braun, one of the event’s organizers.
So on Friday, almost 40 child hackers between the ages of 6 and 17 were let loose on the mock sites, and most of them were able to tamper with vote tallies, some even changing candidates names to things like “Bob Da Builder” and “Richard Nixon’s Head.”