The introduction of electronic and biometric machines for the upcoming has been constantly delayed by the Election Commission of Pakistan. But will this “improvement” really serve as a better medium for voting? It will be efficient and modern, yes, but will it really be secure and accurate?
Will it really be that easy to tamper with it? An American event DefCon reported how easy it can be.
DefCon’s “Voting Machine Hacking Village”
In this year’s DefCon (a hacking conference meant to counter hacking vulnerabilities in different systems) held in Las Vegas, a “Voting Machine Hacking Village” event was organized. It was to highlight vulnerabilities in voting machines used for the election infrastructure in the US.
These paperless-electronic machines were placed in different areas and participants were given unrestricted access to find vulnerabilities – if any – in these systems. This would help assess how easy it is to rig these machines and commit a national level fraud.
Hacked in Minutes
The results didn’t look good – the first machine was hacked within a matter of minutes. The hacker bypassed the machine and was able to control it remotely. He was able to change the number of votes, who the voters voted for and moreover, he could shut down the entire system – incapacitating it completely.
At the end of the event, all the machines had been breached in some manner – electronically and physically.
Any Hacker Can Do It
Additionally, reports said that it won’t take a state-of-the-art hacker to take control of these vulnerable machines – anyone with good enough knowledge in hacking can do it. Finding vulnerabilities in the system can take an hour to 15 seconds, depending on the skill of the hacker.
Now, if you think about it, the people behind such a large scale fraud won’t hire a third-grade hacker to do the job would they? If civilians can do it, it’s gonna be a walk in the park for state-sponsored hackers.
However, this doesn’t mean voting machines are a no go in this modern era. More advanced voting machines can be used which support encrypted data transmission and have the ability to leave a paper trail i.e. an easily scanable printed vote slip, which can act as a physical proof of the voters’ original votes and can help detect any breach almost immediately.
Of course, if the Pakistani government wants to make use of older voting machines which can be easily hacked, they might as well keep using the current manual system.