Judge reviews video of voting machine hack

A video showing a Princeton professor hack into a New Jersey voting machine is currently before a judge and could help determine the future of the state's voting systems. The video shows Andrew Appel

News 12 Staff

Oct 23, 2008, 12:08 AM

Updated 5,743 days ago

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A video showing a Princeton professor hack into a New Jersey voting machine is currently before a judge and could help determine the future of the state's voting systems.
The video shows Andrew Appel installing a Z-80 computer chip into the main circuit board on a machine. According to Appel, the program can shift votes from one candidate to another and steal an election.
Appel installs the chip in less than seven minutes on the video. On film, Appel picks a lock, unscrews a metal panel, removes a chip and installs his own program.
"I tell you, I'm a rank amateur lock-picker and the lock on this machine is so cheap that anyone can be trained to pick it in about 10 minutes," says Appel.
According to the professor, the hack can steal elections for years with almost no way to detect it.
New Jersey's election director says Appel's hacking experiment is not realistic.
"He was only able to do what he's doing in this video because he was given the source code, he was given the passwords, and he was given unfettered access to the machines," says Robert Giles. "If somebody has been trying to touch the machines or access the machines, we're going to know about it."
Giles maintains seals on the voting machines would make tampering obvious. Appel counters that claim, arguing backup batteries make the machines vulnerable.
"You have to open up the circuit board cover to replace the battery," says Appel. "And when you remove the circuit board cover, the state employee or county employee will remove all the seals."
According to Appel, there is potential to hack the machines right after an election as well since the seals are already broken.
Critics of the machines want them replaced with paper ballots that can be scanned into a computer. The state wants printers added to the existing machines to create a paper backup.
"If you can get the voting machines to move 5 percent of the vote in every election, you've really put your thumb on the scales of democracy," says Appel.
"We have security measures in place to prevent that type of a hack," argues Giles.
A judge will make the final decision of what to do with the voting systems.
Click here for footage of Princeton professor hacking into voting machine for experiment
Viewers sound off on voting machine fears, economyCritics sound the alarm on N.J. voting machines


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