We might as well face it, y’all—they stole the election. If you didn’t believe it after the secret Russian house party with Donald Trump’s son (the dumb one, not the neo-Nazi one), the Paul Manafort canceled checks, Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador becoming “friends with benefits,” or Trump and Putin making out in the corner of the club at the G-20 summit, this might change your mind.
When attendees at the Def Con computer security conference—perhaps the biggest gathering of computer hackers in the world—were challenged to hack into 30 voting machines, they went to work. They breached the first one in about two minutes, according to CNET and USA Today. Within 24 hours, attendees had broken into every single voting machine.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “With months of planning and coding, a really good computer expert could probably break into any system.” Well, the experiment, called the “Voter Hacking Village,” wasn’t announced beforehand. The organizers simply went online and—OK, this is the insane part—bought 30 voting machines off eBay!
If that fact stunned you, here are a few other things that might surprise you:
- The machines with Advanced Voting Machines’ WINVote system, used in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Mississippi, all had the same password. The password (you might want to take a deep breath here) was “abcde.” The password could not be changed.
- One group hacked the WINVote system through Wi-Fi, while another needed only a USB keyboard and mouse. An intern at a security company called Synack demonstrated that changing votes was as easy as updating a Microsof Office document. “You just update the votes and change it back,” she said.
- One ExpressPoll voting machine, a voter tablet used as recently as April 2017 in a Georgia special election, had 600,000 voter registrations still on it, according to Wired. A hacker broke into that system in 45 minutes. The hacker was 16 years old.
On June 21, Jeanette Manfra, the acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at the Department of Homeland Security, told the Senate intelligence Committee that the agency had evidence that election-related systems in 21 states were targeted by cyber attackers, and in some cases, data was stolen. However, no votes were actually changed, she said.
OK. So we are expected to believe that interns and a 16-year-old could hack into voting systems, but Russian hackers—generally considered to be the best in the world—had a government-sponsored network of cybercriminals who attacked our voting machines, used bots to spread fake news across thousands of social media sites targeting low-information voters, solicited people within the Trump administration and breached the Democratic National Convention’s email system ...
But don’t worry, they didn’t change any votes.