US voting machines hacked under 90 minutes, due to outdated software

New York: Hackers were able to break open US voting machines within 90 minutes at a competition in Las Vegas. The hackers at DEF CON conference on Friday were given voting machines and competed to access them by physically breaking them and hacking them remotely.

The annual conference staged the hack to showcase the security of the US voting system. They purchased 30 different election machines from a US Government auction and timed how long it took them to break in.

It was found that Software of these machines was out dated and insecure. The ethical hackers were able to exploit the machines to gain access to them. They also found hardware weaknesses that could have let cyber criminals meddle with the machines, reported The Telegraph.

Out of the examined devices, one of the worst was the WinVote machine, used in some county elections, in which the hackers found a problem with the Wi-Fi connection that let them break in. They also discovered that it was secured with the password “ABCDE”. Advanced Voting Solutions, which made the WinVote system, shut down in 2007, but its machine was used in local elections in Virginia in 2015.

There has been reportedly fear of Russian interference in the US election. The Department of Homeland Security said Russian hackers targeted 21 US states’ election systems in 2016, as well as conducting email hacking and an online propaganda campaign.

“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible,” said Jake Braun, a cyber security expert at the University of Chicago, according to the Register.
“The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea and Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too,” he added.

The US was one of the first countries to adopt electronic voting. The use of the machines varies across the country and e-voting isn’t available in all states.

Estonia- another country in Europe- leading the e-voting since 2007, a 2014 evaluation of the system found broad security holes.

The UK still sends its citizens to the ballot with a pencil and slip of paper, in part because of fears of cyber attacks. Other problems with digital voting systems include the potential for voter fraud and less privacy regarding citizens’ decision.