How to Hack a Presidential Election
Saturday, October 22 2016 @ 01:00 AM CDT
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
According to Donald Trump, "the US Presidential Election is rigged!" That's a bit disingenuous coming from The Donald, given that if it's being hacked by anyone, the evidence is that it's being hacked by the Russians. And not for the benefit of Clinton, either. But just how realistic could such a claim be?
Experts agree that trying to pull off such a feat by traditional means (i.e., getting people to vote more than once) is not only not happening, but not even feasible to pull off in sufficient numbers to influence anything but the very closest of elections. But how about if you were to hack the election electronically? How hard would that be?
Not as hard as you'd like to think. To begin with, you could hack into registration data bases, plant fictitious names, and then vote those names electronically.
Yes, really. Although general internet-based voting is not yet in place in the US (it is in some countries abroad), it is already in use by certain categories of voters, such as military personnel living abroad. And according to a Department of Homeland Security, the voter registries of at least 20 states have recently been "deeply probed."
And then there are the voting machines themselves, many of which continue to have serious security flaws, but often don't retain any paper ballot for validation purposes. The average voting machine is also over ten years old, and thousands include flaws that have been well-known for just as long.
Still, wouldn't it be hard to hack a voting machine?
Sadly, no. Here's how to hack one type in seven minutes or less. And until recently, close to a third of the voting machines in Virginia were so vulnerable that an expert warned that the average teenager could replace the valid database of votes with a falsified one of his own. In fact, he concluded:
If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. They didn’t need to be in the polling place – within a few hundred feet (e.g., in the parking lot) is easy, and within a half mile with a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.
Or how about this? I've got no computer training at all. But I've come up with three thrillers now where experts have validated the hacks I've come up with as being completely workable. Cybersecurity expert David Heath, reviewing my election hacking book, declared that it "lays out a very clear path showing how someone might steal the upcoming US election." he found the nearfield communications (NFC) hack I came up with to be "especially troubling," and concluded:
As an aside, one has to wonder if this explains how we ended up with the two candidates that we have. Who knows? It certainly offers some food for thought.
If the fact that a non-technical lawyer can come up with a viable way to steal a presidential election doesn't worry you, I'd have another think about that. Especially where we already know that actors as sophisticated as those working for Vladimir Putin may be trying to put Trump in the White House, or at least tip a presidential election that's already a circus into total chaos.
If you're curious about that NFC hack, why don't you download the book and find out?
An impossible candidate jumps to the top of the polls and wins the nomination...sound familiar?
Find out how it all ends:
"Andrew Updegrove brings a rare combination of drama, satire and technical accuracy to his writing. The result is a book you can't put down that tells you things you might wish you didn't know."
Admiral James G. Stavridis, retired Commander, U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and current Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy