September 14, 2006 By Gina M. Scott
In a paper published yesterday, Ariel Feldman, J. Alex Halderman and Edward W. Felten explain and demonstrate how easy it is for criminals to introduce malicious software to the machine. In less then one minute, a virus can be introduced which will steal votes, spread from machine to machine through memory cards, and can hide its tracks. The software can even delete itself from the machines at the end of elections.
In a demonstration, the researchers held a mock election between George Washington and the notorious Benedict Arnold. By adding the malicious vote-stealing software, an election which should have ended in a 4-1 win for Washington instead left Arnold ahead 3-2. Both the paper print out and the memory card showed the fraudulent results.
According to the paper, voting machines such as this, called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE), are nothing more then "general-purpose computers running specialized election software," of which computer scientists have been skeptical.
The main findings of the study:
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