Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hack-a-vote: Students Learn How Vulnerable Electronic Voting Really Is

Date:
October 8, 2008
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
This week undergraduate and graduate students in an advanced computer security course at Rice University in Houston are learning hands-on just how easy it is to wreak havoc on computer software used in today's voting machines.

Undergraduate and graduate students in an advanced computer security course at Rice University in Houston are learning hands-on just how easy it is to wreak havoc on computer software used in today's voting machines.

As part of his advanced computer science class, Rice University Associate Professor and Director of Rice's Computer Security Lab Dan Wallach tests his students in a unique real-life experiment: They are instructed to do their very best to rig a voting machine in the classroom.

Here's how the experiment works:

Wallach splits his class into teams. In phase one, the teams pretend to be unscrupulous programmers at a voting machine company. Their task: Make subtle changes to the machines' software -- changes that will alter the election's outcome but that cannot be detected by election officials.

In the second phase of the experiment, the teams are told to play the part of the election's software regulators. Their task is to certify the code submitted by another team in the first phase of the class.

"What we've found is that it's very easy to insert subtle changes to the voting machine," Wallach said. "If someone has access and wants to do damage, it's very straightforward to do it."

The good news, according to Wallach, is "when looking for these changes, our students will often, but not always, find the hacks."

"While this is a great classroom exercise, it does show how vulnerable certain electronic voting systems are," Wallach said. "If someone had access to machines and had the knowledge these students do, they surely could rig votes."

Even though students were often able to find the other team's hacked software bugs, Wallach said that in real life it would probably be too late.

"In the real world, voting machines' software is much larger and more complex than the Hack-a-Vote machine we use in class," he said. "We have little reason to believe that the certification and testing process used on genuine voting machines would be able to catch the kind of malice that our students do in class. If this happened in the real world, real votes could be compromised and nobody would know."

Wallach hopes that by making students aware of this problem, they will be motivated to advocate changes in America's voting system to ensure the integrity of everyone's vote.

In 2006, electronic voting machines accounted for 41 percent of the tallied U.S. votes. Fifty percent were cast on paper, and 9 percent "other," including New York's lever machines.

Dan Wallach is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University in Houston and associate director of ACCURATE (A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections, multi-institution voting research center funded by the National Science Foundation.). His research involves computer security and the issues of building secure and robust software systems for the Internet.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Hack-a-vote: Students Learn How Vulnerable Electronic Voting Really Is." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007102851.htm>.
Rice University. (2008, October 8). Hack-a-vote: Students Learn How Vulnerable Electronic Voting Really Is. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007102851.htm
Rice University. "Hack-a-vote: Students Learn How Vulnerable Electronic Voting Really Is." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007102851.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

AP (July 30, 2014) Scientists in Texas are studying the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people across West Africa this year. Right now, the disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 percent. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins