Fears over US electronic voting machine fraud

Will November's election be marred by electronic voting fraud?
Will November's election be marred by electronic voting fraud?

A professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas has been teaching his students how easy it is to rig the software used in voting machines for the US Presidential election.

In 2006, electronic voting machines accounted for over 40 per cent of votes cast in US elections, and these numbers are expected to be higher still this year.

Dan Wallach, Director of Rice's Computer Security Lab, split a class of undergraduate and graduate students into two groups: one to tweak voting software to influence an election; the other to try to track down the hackers.

"What we've found is that it's very easy to insert subtle changes to the voting machine," Wallach said. "If someone has access and wants to do damage, it's very straightforward to do it."

Barack, McCain... or Bush again?

Even though students were often able to find the other team's voting fraud hacks, Wallach said that in real life it would probably be too late.

"We have little reason to believe that the certification and testing process used on genuine voting machines would be able to catch the kind of malice that our students do in class," said Wallach. "If this happened in the real world, real votes could be compromised and nobody would know."

Although if Bush wins again this time, I for one will be just a bit suspicious.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.