DEF CON Hackers of all ages have been investigating America’s voting machine tech, and the results weren’t great. For instance, one 11-year-old apparently managed to hack and alter a simulated Secretary of State election results webpage in 10 minutes. The Vote Hacking Village, one of the most packed-out locations at this year’s DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas, saw many of the most commonly used US voting machines hijacked using a variety of wireless and wired attacks – and replica election websites so poorly constructed they were thought too boring for adults to probe, and left to youngsters to infiltrate. The first day saw 39 kids, ranging in age from six to 17, try to crack into facsimiles of government election results websites, developed by former White House technology advisor Brian Markus. The sites had deliberate security holes for the youngsters to exploit – SQL injection flaws, and similar classic coding cockups. All but four of the children managed to leverage the planted vulnerabilities within the allotted three-hour contest. Thus, it really is child’s play to commandeer a website that doesn’t follow basic secure programming practices nor keep up to date with patches – something that ought to focus the minds of people maintaining election information websites.
The children were able to change vote tallies so that they numbered 12 billion, and rewrite party names as well as the names of candidates. Kids being kids, these latter changes included “Bob Da Builder” or “Richard Nixon’s Head” – we spotted the Futurama fan there.
On the adult side, Premier/Diebold’s* TSX voting machines were found to be using SSL certificates that were five years old, and one person managed to, with physical access, upload a Linux operating system to the device and use it to play music, although that hack took a little more time than you’d get while voting.
Diebold’s Express Poll 5000 machines were even easier to crack, thanks to having an easily accessible memory card, which you could swap out while voting, containing supervisor passwords in plain text. An attacker could physically access and tamper with these cards, which also hold the unencoded personal records for all voters including the last four digits of their social security numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Hackers thus found that by inserting specially programmed memory cards when no election official is looking, they could change voting tallies and voter registration information. And take a guess what the root password was? Yes, “Password” – again stored in plain text.