Md. computer testers cast a vote: Election boxes easy to mess with

    Date30 Jan 2004
    3332
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    For a week, the computer whizzes laid abuse - both high- and low-tech - on the six new briefcase-sized electronic voting machines sent over by the state. One guy picked the locks protecting the internal printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once - and get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software. Once inside, he could easily change vote totals that come in on Election Day. . . . For a week, the computer whizzes laid abuse - both high- and low-tech - on the six new briefcase-sized electronic voting machines sent over by the state.

    One guy picked the locks protecting the internal printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once - and get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software. Once inside, he could easily change vote totals that come in on Election Day.

    "My guess is we've only scratched the surface," said Michael A. Wertheimer, who spent 21 years as a cryptologic mathematician at the National Security Agency.

    He is now a director at RABA Technologies in Columbia, the firm that the state hired for about $75,000 to look at Maryland's new touch-screen voting machines scheduled to be unveiled in nearly every precinct in Maryland for the March 2 primary.

    The state has no choice but to use its $55 million worth of AccuVote-TS machines made by Diebold Election Systems for the primary. The old optical scanners are gone.

    Yesterday, Wertheimer calmly presented his eight-member team's findings to committees in the House and Senate, explaining the weaknesses they discovered and a plan for how to plug many of the cracks, at least in the short run.

    Giddy geek speak

    Yet on a recent morning at his offices, Wertheimer's computer programmers were practically giddy as they invented new ways to muck up an election. Some were simple - like the lock-picking or just yanking the cords out of a machine's monitor, disabling it for the rest of the day.

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