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D.C. Online Voting Experiment Reveals Major Vulnerabilities

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By Patrick Madden

When D.C.'s Board of Elections and Ethics dared people to try to hack it's prototype for online voting, a professor and his students from the University of Michigan rose to the occasion.

They infiltrated the system and even embedded the school's fight song on the Web page.

But new details from the incident reveal just how vulnerable online voting can be.

Michigan Professor Alex Halderman testified before the city council today. He says within 36 hours his graduate students were in complete control of the system--they could tap into the board's security cameras and they could observe votes in real time, unveiling voters' identities.

They could even change votes if they wanted to.

The even more revealing part: Halderman says while his students were infiltrating, they noticed other hackers from China and Iran essentially doing the same thing they were, poking and prodding the system's vulnerabilities.

Halderman says online voting is just too dangerous right now.

"Indeed, it will probably be decades, if ever, before the technology is at a place where we can perform voting safely," he says.

The elections board set up the test because it is trying to figure out an easier way for overseas voters to cast a ballot.


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