Def Con Reveals Extreme Vulnerability of US Election Systems

One 11-year-old hacker infiltrated a simulated Florida state election site in mere minutes.

def con
Code is displayed to a crowd Arsenal station where demos are given at Black Hat, a cybersecurity conference in the Mandalay Bay hotel on August 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor)
Ann Hermes

At the annual Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, 11-year-old Bianca Lewis quickly gained access to the Florida Secretary of State’s election website.

“First, you open the site,” she explained, according to The New Yorker, “then you type a few lines of code into the search bar, and you can delete things and change votes. I deleted Trump. I deleted every single vote for him.”

Granted, the Florida state election site Lewis and other students at the conference hacked was not the official version, but it, and others like it, were simulations constructed from data scraped from the actual sites, and contained known vulnerabilities that had been exploited by hackers in the past.

This year’s Def Con brought together 25,000 of the most avid hackers in the world. It was also the perfect time to show the American public how easily our country’s voting machines and elections systems could be compromised. Organizers brought in nearly four dozen machines and their vulnerabilities were soon put on full display. For example, by lunchtime on the first day, one of the machines had been reprogrammed to project an image of the Illuminati.

“To me, the real value is that everyone who comes through here, the thousands of people, will be leaving with very specialized expertise that can be applied down the road to future [election] systems,” Matt Blaze, a Def Con organizer and a professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, said to The New Yorker. “It’s an incredible opportunity to expand the pool of experts who understand how they work and know how to evaluate them.”

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