You don’t even have to know much about voting machines to hack some of the systems that are still in use across the country. A new report published on Tuesday outlines how amateur hackers were able to “effectively breach” voting equipment, in some cases in a matter of minutes or hours, over just four days in July at DEFCON, an annual hacker conference. The report underscores the vulnerability of U.S. election systems. It also highlights the need for states to improve their security protocols after the Department of Homeland Security said Russian hackers attempted to target them during the 2016 election. “The DEFCON Voting Village showed that technical minds with little or no previous knowledge about voting machines, without even being provided proper documentation or tools, can still learn how to hack the machines within tens of minutes or a few hours,” the report says.
The DEFCON hackers were able to effectively breach six different voting machines in some way, the report says. Programmers were able to access one machine, which was used by Virginia from 2003 until 2014, when it was decertified, in a matter of minutes. After infiltrating the voting equipment, the hackers were able to observe and even change votes in that machine. The group found a universal, unchangeable default password for the machine by simply Googling “admin” and “abcde.” They also successfully breached a e-poll book to access voter information from Shelby County, Tennessee, dating back to about a decade ago. The same kind of e-poll book is used in Ohio, the report notes.
… In the next elections, just under 64 million voters will vote in jurisdictions that amateur hackers will able to hack at DEFCON, said Warren Stewart, a spokesman for Verified Voting, a group that works on bettering election security. These voters, spread across 26 states, represent just under 33 percent of total registered voters nationwide, he added. Stewart also noted many of the jurisdictions that use more than one voting system and in most cases, paper ballots would be used to vote.