I’ve been in the security field for 30 years, and it takes a lot to surprise me. But the VITA report really shocked me – as bad as I thought the problems were likely to be, VITA’s five-page report showed that they were far worse. And the WinVote system was so fragile that it hardly took any effort. While the report does not state how much effort went into the investigation, my estimation based on the description is that it was less than a person week.
So how would someone use these vulnerabilities to change an election?
- Take your laptop to a polling place, and sit outside in the parking lot.
- Use a free sniffer to capture the traffic, and use that to figure out the WEP password (which VITA did for us).
- Connect to the voting machine over WiFi.
- If asked for a password, the administrator password is “admin” (VITA provided that).
- Download the Microsoft Access database using Windows Explorer.
- Use a free tool to extract the hardwired key (“shoup”), which VITA also did for us.
- Use Microsoft Access to add, delete, or change any of the votes in the database.
- Upload the modified copy of the Microsoft Access database back to the voting machine.
- Wait for the election results to be published.
The freedom to tinker blog has been doing research on voting machines for a very long time although in this case they are reporting the results of research done by Virginia IT people in their decertification. In the past most vulnerabilities uncovered required physical access to a voting machine and a bit of skullduggery making it difficult to change votes on a large scale. I simply cannot comprehend for what purpose these voting devices needed to be on a wifi network other than someone thought it was “cool.” This entire report is mind boggling and makes me wonder how many more areas of the country are doing this now.