Hackers could tamper with Germany’s election results because the country is relying on poorly protected software, according to German tech watchdog Chaos Computer Club. While Germans hand in paper ballots that are hand-counted, the results are collected and disseminated electronically, including with a software called PC-Wahl that can be manipulated, CCC said in a report released Thursday. CCC found passwords online and easily figured out others — one was “test.” The group said the software isn’t secure because it uses an older encryption method with a single secret key, rather than newer and more-secure “asymmetrical” combinations. Hackers could “influence the transmitted voting result data on a nationwide level,” CCC wrote in the report. It urged the German government to modernize its software to protect the Sept. 24 election.
Germany’s top technology security agency, the BSI, has contacted election authorities across the country in response and has asked the developer of PC-Wahl to improve the security of its software, the agency said Thursday in an emailed statement.
Germany has seen a range of intrusions in past years, including a breach of its parliamentary network in 2015, when criminals stole 16 gigabytes of data. Security firm Trend Micro Inc. has linked the Bundestag attack and others to Pawn Storm, a group with ties to Russia. That’s fueled concern that hackers will try to disrupt the elections in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest critic in Europe, is seeking a fourth term.