Feeds

California e-voting machines have more holes than Swiss cheese

Flaws in all systems studied

Security for virtualized datacentres

Hackers hired to evaluate the security of e-voting machines used in California found serious flaws that could allow for vote tampering in all three systems studied.

The defects included the ability to overwrite firmware, install malicious applications, forge voter cards and gain access to the inside of voting machines by unfastening screws that were supposed to be inaccessible. The defects were found in machines provided by Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart Intercivic and Diebold Elections Systems.

The team was unable to test equipment sold by Election Systems & Software because the vendor dragged its feet in cooperating with the review, which is authorized under California law.

The e-voting machine assessment was part of a "top-to-bottom" review that Secretary of State Debra Bowen undertook earlier this year into all ballot machines used in the state, whether or not they are computerized. Several "red teams" were given access to the source code and user manuals of e-voting machines and directed to hack them if possible.

"The red teams demonstrated that the security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results and of the systems that provide those results," wrote Matt Bishop, the study's principal investigator and a professor at the University of California at Davis.

He said the teams probably could have uncovered additional vulnerabilities had they not encountered significant delays in obtaining information and tools from the three vendors involved. Many documents didn't arrive until July 13, just seven days before the five-week study was concluded. Other software was never delivered at all.

"Despite these problems, the red team testing was successful, in that it provided results that are reproducible and speak to the vulnerability of all three systems tested," Bishop wrote.

Among the findings of the study:

  • Testers were able to overwrite firmware in the Sequoia's Edge/Insight/400-C, in the GEMS system sold by Diebold and in Hart's System 6.2.1.
  • They were also able to bypass physical locks in Sequoia's Edge system by unfastening screws.
  • Testers were able to penetrate Diebold's GEMS server system by exploiting Windows as it was delivered and installed by the vendor. That allowed them to make security changes, including the installation of a wireless device, that were never recorded by audit logs.
  • Testers found an undisclosed account in the Hart software that an attacker could exploit to gain unauthorized access to the election management database.

All three companies challenged the review, arguing that the laboratory environment under which it was conducted was unrealistic.

"This was not a security risk evaluation but an unrealistic worst case scenario evaluation limited to malicious tests, studies and analysis performed in a laboratory environment by computer security experts with unfettered access to the machines and software over several weeks," Sequoia argued in a press release. "This is not a real-world scenario and does not reflect the diligence, hard work and dedication to the stewardship of our nation's democracy that our customers - and all election officials - carry out every day in their very important jobs of conducting elections in California and throughout the United States."

"We believe the process would have been enhanced had the testing team included an experienced election official," Sequoia said in written comments directed to Bowen. "Unfortunately, since no one on the testing team had experience in security procedures and protocols used in California, your team was deprived of having someone with hands-on experience running an election." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.