Traditional voting systems are typically expensive and require a great deal of manpower to implement. Because of this, technology firms have begun proposing electronic alternatives (e-voting) that could one day be implemented in national races — however, security experts remain hesitant. When Washington DC recently flipped the switch on a new e-voting option that it planned to use to tally absentee ballots for local elections, the experts' point was proven: a fictional, beer-guzzling robot was elected as the head of the DC school board.
Before using the new online voting program for a real race, the DC election board posed a world-wide challenge to anyone who thought they could crack the system. A team of computer experts from the University of Michigan quickly pried the digital gates wide open and began to snoop around. This was aided by the fact that the engineers who set up the supposedly bullet-proof used the word "admin" as both the username and password of the servers holding the election information.
While the tricksters from Michigan were working their magic, other hackers from as far off as China were doing their best to push their way in as well. The team was prepared for this, and managed to block all others from accessing the data that they were working hard to alter.
In addition to scavenging the authentication data for every registered DC voter on a simple PDF file (the most worrisome of all the discoveries), the team was also able to erase the data on every single legitimate vote and replace it with fictional characters. Bender, an alcoholic robot from the TV series Futurama, was subsequently named head of the DC school board.
Of course, the foul-mouthed machine won't actually be taking his post, but he nevertheless helped highlight the very serious security questions that still remain around e-voting systems. Predictably, the DC election board notes that it still has a lot more work to do before it can declare its new digital election process ready for public use. Then again, these days we have cats running for public office, so maybe a robot wouldn't be so bad after all.
This article originally appeared on Tecca
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