Researchers at Argonne National Labs have developed a $10-30 set of parts that can be inserted into a Diebold voting machine and used to alter votes. The machine can be opened by using a standard hotel minibar key, or a similar, easily copied key, and the parts can be inserted in a matter of seconds. Once the parts are inserted, votes can be altered by remote control from a distance of up to 1/2 mile (or I assume the device could be set to do a pre-programmed vote modification).
Researchers didn’t have to alter the machine’s software — in fact, no special knowledge of the machine’s software was required. They didn’t have to solder anything inside the machine, so the devices could be easily removed with little or no signs of tampering. Since machines often sit for weeks in church basements and school storage rooms, it’s easy to imagine a successful hack.
The is just another reminder that the voting machine procurement storm that followed Bush v Gore was mainly a boondoggle. All of the touchscreen-only machines are going to be invalidated by court order someday, and they’ll be thrown away and replaced by a paper-based system that’s counted by machine, or at minimum, a kludged-together touchscreen system that prints a human-readable printed ballot output. In the meantime, we’re just going to have to trust local election boards, which don’t have a lot of money or knowledge of technology.