America’s voting infrastructure is severely lacking in security, according to the results of a demonstration set up at Def Con, an annual hacking convention in Las Vegas. TechCrunch reports that an 11-year-old name Emmit from Austin, TX was able to hack the Florida Secretary of State’s website in only ten minutes.
The pages that he hacked were actually set up as replicas, but they demonstrate a frightening reality of the ease in which hackers can attack our government websites. A secure communications platform called Wickr noted that the demonstration “was mainly focused on breaking into the portions of the websites that are critical to the election process, [so] the kids worked against the replicas of the webpages where election results are reported by secretaries of state.”
Another company that set up these replicas, Wall of Sheep Village, issued a statement as well: “The main issues with the live sites we are creating the replicas of are related to poor coding practices. They have popped up across the industry and are not vendor specific.”
Of the 47 kids that participated in the experiment, 89% of them were able to gain access into the virtual sites set up by Wickr and Wall of Sheep Village.
“It’s actually kind of scary,” said Emmit. “People can easily hack in to websites like these and they can probably do way more harmful things to these types of websites.”
“The really important reason why we’re doing this is because we’re not taking the problem serious enough how significantly someone can mess with our elections,” said Wickr’s founder Nico Sell. “And by showing this with eight-year-old kids we can call attention to the problem in such a way that we can fix the system so our democracy isn’t ruined.”
Hugh Thompson, the chief technology officer at Symantec, worries about the smaller implications of such fragile voting infrastructure. “The risk that I think most of us worried about at that time is still the biggest one: someone goes into a state or a county that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of the election, is not going to change the balance on x, y or z, but then publishes details of the attack,” he said. “Undermining confidence in the vote is scary.”