As if we don’t have enough problems with conspiracy theories and user interfaces with the electronic voting booths already in use, government is trying to develop an online voting system so we can vote from our home computers.
The system would increase voter participation almost as much as it would voter fraud, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.
Those researchers reported last month that it took them only a short time to break through the security functions of Washington. D.C.’s pilot online voting program.
“Within 48 hours of the system going live, we had gained near complete control of the election server.” the researchers wrote in their recently released paper. “We successfully changed every vote and revealed almost every secret ballot.”
Oh, but it gets better.
It took two full days for anyone associated with the program to discover they’d been hacked. What’s even better is that the primary reason they discovered it was because the researchers left a visible trail on purpose. It was so obvious, that they might as well have just taken a brown paper bag filled with dog poo and set it on fire on the office doorstep with the note “You’ve been hacked!” and they would have gotten the same result.
The university researchers say that the project was developed in cooperation with the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV) and that other US states have also worked on services similar to Washington’s “Digital Vote-by-Mail Service”.
While they appreciated the program’s desire to create an online solution for voters, they warned that the security protocols being used were not unlike using the combination “123” on the lock for your luggage.
Of course, using an open source code for this program makes it easy to crack the system, the researchers said that even if the program had been proprietary, that hackers could still make short work of the system.
Now, this is part and parcel of the fact that most people working in government are woefully uninformed and even flat out ignorant of the way technology works. That’s not to say that everyone who holds a government job needs to have a degree from MIT, but when you’re working on an electronic system that is designed to enable the one and only function that determines the course of our democracy by controlling the way people cast their votes, I’d say it’s a pretty important time to understand how tech works.
So, don’t look forward to voting from your home anytime soon. And send a thank you note to those guys in Michigan. For all we know, they’re the ones who helped prevent a President Trump from happening.