Local governments all across Virginia are scrambling to replace their voting machines in time for the next election due to a decision by the State Board of Elections to immediately decertify their Win-Vote voting machines. The action is a result of security concerns following a report published by an investigator probing reported issues in the most recent elections. The investigation came as a result of complaints from voters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who experienced trouble casting ballots in the November election.
According to the report investigators were able to both physically breach the machines’ security with a USB insertable device as well as via the machines’ wireless network. They found the system encryption to be obsolete, and were able to monitor and access the network remotely; the network key was reported to have been “abcde”. They were also able to access the system’s operating system via the administrator password which was “admin”. The one bright spot in their attempts to hack the machines came when they discovered that most of the remote management tools they were using would not run on the machines due to their age. The investigators concluded however, that with more time they could have created and run malicious code, and that the level of sophistication needed to carry out such an attack was low.
Despite the enormous costs Virginia decided it had no other choice but to remove these machines from service for the sake of election integrity. The question that must now be answered is how secure are the other voting machines remaining in use? In addition to the network vulnerabilities found with the Win-Vote machines, other systems have experienced “calibration” issues that cause a vote for one candidate to be recorded for another. The difficulty in proving malicious intent with such calibration issues make it entirely possible, if not likely, that a particularly partisan election official might be inclined to accidentally calibrate in favor of their chosen candidate. Of course, there’s no need to worry because no one would do a thing like that, right?