On Friday, hackers at a computer hacking competition in Las Vegas were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in less than two hours, exposing glaring deficiencies in the security of U.S voting infrastructure. The voting machines used were manufactured by multiple companies including Diebolds, Sequoia and Winvote equipment, and were purchased over eBay or at government auctions. According to the Register, the hackers at the DEF CON conference Friday were given voting machines, and competed to access them by physically breaking them open and hacking them remotely.
“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible computer hacking. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, the Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Global Advisors and Managing Director of Cambridge Global Capital, who designed the hacking competition.
“The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, and Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security,” he told the Register.
It has become common for large U.S institutions to invite outsiders to computer hacking competitions to try and break into their computer networks and physical locations, in an exercise called penetration testing. In the Las Vegas competition, some of the devices used were found to have physical ports that could be used to attach devices containing malicious software. Others had insecure Wi-Fi connections, or were running outdated software with security vulnerabilities like Windows XP. In January, President Trump signed an executive order establishing a commission to investigate possible voter fraud in the 2016 election. The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections” as well as “fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting,” the order says. Trump himself has made baseless claims about millions of illegal voters during the 2016 election.