This week undergraduate and graduate students in an advanced computer security course at Rice University in Houston are learning hands-on just how easy it is to wreak havoc on computer software used in today's voting machines.
As part of his advanced computer science class, Rice University Associate Professor and Director of Rice's Computer Security Lab Dan Wallach tests his students in a unique real-life experiment: They are instructed to do their very best to rig a voting machine in the classroom.
Here's how the experiment works:
Wallach splits his class into teams. In phase one, the teams pretend to be unscrupulous programmers at a voting machine company. Their task: Make subtle changes to the machines' software -- changes that will alter the election's outcome but that cannot be detected by election officials.
In the second phase of the experiment, the teams are told to play the part of the election's software regulators. Their task is to certify the code submitted by another team in the first phase of the class.
"What we've found is that it's very easy to insert subtle changes to the voting machine," Wallach said. "If someone has access and wants to do damage, it's very straightforward to do it."
The good news, according to Wallach, is "when looking for these changes, our students will often, but not always, find the hacks."
"While this is a great classroom exercise, it does show how vulnerable certain electronic voting systems are," Wallach said. "If someone had access to machines and had the knowledge these students do, they surely could rig votes."
Even though students were often able to find the other team's hacked software bugs, Wallach said that in real life it would probably be too late.
"In the real world, voting machines' software is much larger and more complex than the Hack-a-Vote machine we use in class," he said. "We have little reason to believe that the certification and testing process used on genuine voting machines would be able to catch the kind of malice that our students do in class. If this happened in the real world, real votes could be compromised and nobody would know."
Wallach hopes that by making students aware of this problem, they will be motivated to advocate changes in America's voting system to ensure the integrity of everyone's vote.
In 2006, electronic voting machines accounted for 41 percent of the tallied U.S. votes. Fifty percent were cast on paper, and 9 percent "other," including New York's lever machines.
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
High Number of Science Enthusiasts in Switzerland
05.02.2018 | Universität Zürich
Between filter bubbles, uneven visibility and transnationality
06.12.2017 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy