By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Election hacking is a hot topic right now. Could someone really hack into a voting website and manipulate election results? According to this recent test at a hacker’s convention, the answer is definitely yes—even if you’re only 11 years old.
White hat hackers—the “good guys” of the hacking world who try to stay one step ahead of the “bad guys”—have conventions. These meetings allow them to gather as a group, brush up on their techniques, and discuss some of the latest threats that criminals are using.
At one recent hacker’s convention, Def Con, organizers set up a replica voting website. It was the same voting site people in Florida use during every election. They invited around 50 children, all between 6- and 17-years old. Shockingly, 30 of the kids managed to hack the replica site. The child who was the fastest—an 11-year old boy—not only hacked the site within 10 minutes, he also changed the votes and names.
Why did organizers do this? To test how weak our election infrastructure is and show the vulnerabilities that are present.
The government’s response to election hacking
When this information was made public, you might think that the government would be concerned. However, the spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of State, the organization responsible for counting votes, wasn’t particularly responsive.
The organization said that Def Con’s efforts were welcomed, but they didn’t believe the same thing could happen with the actual voting machines as they will likely have additional protection.
President Trump’s security team, however, recently warned that Russian hackers have already made attempts to interfere in the vote this upcoming November. With election time right around the corner, the results of this election hacking demo are definitely concerning.
This is even more alarming when you consider that the hackers at Def Con were able to change party names and add billions of votes to a specific candidate’s tallies. They could even change the individual candidate’s names themselves; one hacker reportedly switched out a name to “Richard Nixon’s Head.”
The boy who won the hacking competition, Emmett Brewer, changed the name of the mock election winner to his own. He also added billions of votes to his tally.
This is certainly worrying news, despite what the National Association of Secretaries of State says. It also, of course, raises questions about past elections.
Are you concerned about election hacking? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to download Hotspot Shield for free to protect your devices against black hat hackers—aka, the “bad guys.”