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Study Shows “Secure” Voting Machines Are Actually Vulnerable to Hackers

Study Shows “Secure” Voting Machines Are Actually Vulnerable to Hackers

New voting machines rolled out ahead of the 2020 elections are vulnerable to hackers, The Washington Post reports.

A study from researchers at the University of Michigan found that at least 18 percent of districts in the United States will use ballot-marking devices, or BMDs, in November that do not have enough protections against hacking.

The study comes after manufacturers and election officials touted the machines as secure after Russia’s attempts to hack voting systems in 2016.

“The implication of our study is that it’s extremely unsafe [to use BMDs], especially in close elections,” University of Michigan researcher Alex Halderman told The Post.

Hackers could sneak in undetected:

The machines, which were hyped as a compromise between unsecure paperless machines and hand-marked ballots, require voters to ensure that their vote was tallied correctly.

But researchers found that only a handful of people are likely to check their vote, “meaning that if hackers succeed in altering even a small percentage of electronic votes, they might be able to change the outcome of a close election without being detected,” The Post reported.

“There's been a lot of discussion in the election security community about whether BMD verification works as a defense against hacking, but nobody really had any hard numbers,” Halderman told The Post. “Now, for the first time, we have an experimental data point and, unfortunately, the results confirm some of our worst fears.”

Researchers intentionally changed votes:

The researchers watched 241 people vote on the new machines in a simulated election and then changed at least one of their votes on the printed-out ballot.

The researchers found that only about 7 percent of people reported an error to poll workers.

Researchers said those rates suggest that hackers could go undiscovered if they changed just 1 to 2 percent of the votes.

“The researchers also tried several methods to get voters to check their ballots for errors, including postings signs and having poll workers urge them to review the ballots — but none of them improved error detection ‘to the point that BMDs can be used safely in close or small elections,’ The Post reported.