The upcoming U.S. presidential election can be rigged and sabotaged, and we might never even know it happened. This Election Day voters in 10 states, or parts of them, will use touch-screen voting machines with no paper backup of an individual’s vote; some will have rewritable flash memory. If malware is inserted into these machines that’s smart enough to rewrite itself, votes can be erased or assigned to another candidate with little possibility of figuring out the actual vote. In precincts where vote tallies raise suspicions, computer scientists will be called in the day after the election to conduct forensics. But even if a hack is suspected, or proven, it would likely be impossible to do anything about it. If the voting machine firmware doesn’t match what the vendor supplied, “it’s like you burned all the ballots,” said Daniel Lopresti, a professor and chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “We have no way to confirm that we can really trust the output from the machine,” he said.
This election in particular has computer scientists and security experts worried. They are concerned that electronic voting machines, voter tabulation and registration systems will be hacked. If an attack causes a polling place backup and some voters to leave and go home, the vote is reduced. This may be as effective as voting-machine tampering in affecting the outcome. It may also undermine confidence in the results. Pennsylvania is attracting the most concern. It is a swing state and many counties use touch-screen systems that do not use a paper ballot or produce a paper record — for the voter to inspect — of the voter’s intent.
… Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton, testified before a U.S. House committee on Sept. 28, and urged lawmakers to eliminate use of touch-screen voting machines, in the same way they outlawed punch-card ballots following the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Appel said more states are using optical scanners, and while the scanning machine has a computer in it, there is also a “ballot of record, and it can be recounted by hand, in a way we can trust,” he told lawmakers. Despite all the potential risks ahead, Eckhardt says, “People should vote. The only way that your vote for sure doesn’t get counted is you don’t cast it.”
Full Article: If the election is hacked, we may never know | Computerworld.