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Voting machines vulnerable, says report by UConn faculty

State takes extra security steps before election

by Michael Kirk - November 6, 2006

UConn faculty members contracted by the state to evaluate the security of new voting machines to be used in some Connecticut municipalities on Nov. 7 have issued a report identifying vulnerabilities in the system which, if exploited maliciously, could affect the outcome of the election in those precincts.

The report makes several recommendations to help ensure the security of the vote. These have already been implemented by the Secretary of the State's office in time for the election.

Precincts in 25 Connecticut cities and towns will use the new voting machine technology in the upcoming election.

The team of computer science and engineering faculty, led by Professor Alexander Shvartsman, includes Aggelos Kiayias, assistant professor-in-residence; Laurent Michel, assistant professor; and Alex Russell, associate professor.

The full report can be found online here.

The report states that, "based on our findings, an [AccuVote Optical Scan] can be compromised with off-the-shelf equipment in a matter of minutes, even if the machine has its removable memory card sealed in place.

The basic attack can be applied to effect a variety of results, including entirely neutralizing one candidate so that their votes are not counted, swapping the votes of two candidates, or biasing the results by shifting some votes from one candidate to another.

Such vote tabulation corruptions can lay dormant until the Election Day, thus avoiding detection through pre-election tests."

The Secretary of the State's office has implemented new security procedures for the safe use of the optical scan voting machines in response to the findings, including strict physical custody, tamper-resistant protection of the voting equipment, and random post-election audits.

The machines being used are AccuVote Optical Scan voting terminals, made by Diebold and provided to the state by LHS Associated in Massachusetts.

The faculty involved in the study have also created a Voting Technology Research Center in the School of Engineering to study voting technology.

They will assist in performing random audits of the machines following the election.

The report was produced for the Connecticut Secretary of the State's office.  

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