EVMs prompt red flags in US

While the Election Commission of India insists EVMs are secure and tamper-proof, alarm bells are ringing in the US and UK, where concerns are being raised on the integrity of EVMs

EVMs prompt red flags in US

Rini Barman

In a fresh demonstration in Las Vegas, hackers claimed that voting machines continue to be vulnerable. The manufacturers, meanwhile, told Wall Street Journal that while ‘experts’ could possibly break into the system, the machines are secure in “real election environment with proper physical controls”.

• On September 27, 2018, a 50-page report was released saying that the number and severity of the flaws in voting equipment in the US were found to be ‘staggering’.

• A ballot machine used in 23 states in the US, carries a cybersecurity flaw that was reported a decade ago, says a report in the BBC.

The organisers (Verifiedvoting.org) in a statement declared, “The findings are based on a project at the Voting Village at the Def Con hacking conference held in Las Vegas last month, where hackers were invited to attempt to break into voting machines and other equipment used in elections across the country.

The hacking group claims they were able to break into some voting machines in two minutes and that they had the ability to wirelessly reprogram an electronic card used by millions of Americans to activate a voting terminal to cast their ballot. “This vulnerability could be exploited to take over the voting machine on which they vote and cast as many votes as the voter wanted,” the group claims in the report.

Additionally, the group says they identified another flaw in the same machine that had been used in the 2016 election. The issue had initially been identified a decade ago, prompting the group to complain that even when issues are detected, they are not fixed. A spokesperson for the machine’s manufacturer, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), said that while the company is no longer manufacturing the machine in question, the M650, there are approximately 270 units actively in use in the U.S.

More than 30 voting machines and other pieces of equipment were made available to attendees of the conference, including the M650 electronic ballot scanner, which is currently used by 23 US states.

“Other machines tested include the AccuVote TSx, currently used by 18 US states. The system includes a smart card reader for users to cast votes, which the report says can be easily disconnected to “disrupt the election” process,” stated a report in the BBC.

Attendees of the conference were also able to reprogramme voting smart cards wirelessly, using mobile phones.

“Over 15 years we have studied numerous election systems and voting machines across the world, and every single one has been found to have severe vulnerabilities,” Harri Hursti, one of the authors of the report, told the BBC.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Electoral Commission told the BBC: “Any change to the system of voting would require a pilot, which would be carried out by the Cabinet Office.”

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