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By | John Leyden 1st August 2006 13:20

Diebold voting machine hack exposed

Switch toggle tampering

Much has been written (in these pages and elsewhere) about the shortcomings of Diebold's electronic voting technology, but researchers at the Open Voting Foundation have come up with what they argue is the most serious flaw in electronic voting technology yet documented.

Open Voting found that by toggling a single switch it's possible to get Diebold's AccuVote TS touchscreen voting machine to boot from an unverified external flash drive instead of the device's built-in firmware, which is stored on an EPROM chip.

In fairness, exploiting this shortcoming would require physically opening up the machine and a certain amount of hardware and programming skills, but that's hardly an insurmountable barrier to a sufficiently motivated hacker.

Open Voting Foundation reckons the problem is compounded by a failure to create a voter-audited paper trail during elections tallied by the machine.

"Diebold has made the testing and certification process practically irrelevant," said Open Voting Foundation president, Alan Dechert. "If you have access to these machines and you want to rig an election, anything is possible with the Diebold TS - and it could be done without leaving a trace. All you need is a screwdriver."

Newer TSx series voting machines can only contain one boot profile at a time, but it's far easier to circumvent controls and overwrite files stored in older TS machines, according to Open Voting.

"These findings underscore the need for open testing and certification. There is no way such a security vulnerability should be allowed. These systems should be recalled," he added. ®

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