Fact or fiction? Tell me what you think.
As voting officials readied Diebold machines in their precinct, a few machines received a small modification. A $10 part plugged directly into their logic board, tucked inside the machine, and the machine locked up. Everything was done according to routine, down to verifying the locks on the machines were engaged. Only one key was needed to verify, leaving a single official to oversee the final setup.
Election Day dawned, and long lines formed early. After showing the correct identification to enter the voting booth, citizens cast their votes for President, Congress, and assorted local offices.
In the next room, the official overseeing results held a small remote device. Periodically, he pulls out the remote and pushes the right button. Activation complete.
Whatever votes were actually cast are now irrelevant. The voter's choices have been intercepted and changed to the new slate before they're recorded in device memory.
Voters were shocked to discover a Republican landslide in 2012. The House ,Senate, and Presidency had been won by a handful of votes in key districts expected to vote solidly Democratic.
If you think it's fiction, watch the video at the top.
The use of touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems of the type Argonne demonstrated to be vulnerable to manipulation has declined in recent years due to security concerns, and the high cost of programming and maintenance. Nonetheless, the same type of DRE systems, or ones very similar, will once again be used by a significant part of the electorate on Election Day in 2012. According to Sean Flaherty, a policy analyst for VerifiedVoting.org, a nonpartisan e-voting watchdog group, "About one-third of registered voters live where the only way to vote on Election Day is to use a DRE."
Almost all voters in states like Georgia, Maryland, Utah and Nevada, and the majority of voters in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, will vote on DREs on Election Day in 2012, says Flaherty. Voters in major municipalities such as Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh will also line up in next year's election to use DREs of the type hacked by the Argonne National Lab.
Even more disturbing, the Vulnerability Assessments team believes this particular type of attack isn't limited only to Diebold machines, but any DRE voting system by any manufacturer. It's a cheap hardware hack with a lot of bang for the interested buck.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid an attack like this would be for inspections of not only the machine's software, but also a visual hardware inspection by witnesses before the machines are sealed and used. Of course, that has its problems too, as Debra Bowen, former California Secretary of State, pointed out:
Voting machine companies and election officials have long sought to protect source code and the memory cards that store ballot programming and election results for each machine as a way to guard against potential outside manipulation of election results. But critics like California Secretary of State Debra Bowen have pointed out that attempts at "security by obscurity" largely ignore the most immediate threat, which comes from election insiders who have regular access to the e-voting systems, as well as those who may gain physical access to machines that were not designed with security safeguards in mind.
There is only one way to avoid one of these attacks, and that's to use systems with paper backups of each ballot cast.