Hackers get into voting machines during ‘HackWest’ convention

Mar 23, 2018, 6:02 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2018, 12:48 am

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s an odd sort of feeling when you walk into a conference and realize you have no idea what people are saying.

“Two files that hash to the same MD5,” said one speaker on stage in a conference room. “I want to get an RS232 analyzer. I think that’s our next step,” said another person working on a computer. “Pic 16 F 72 ISP.”

It’s a different language all right, but this is HackWest. It’s a brand new hacker convention, and for the past three days at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, hackers have been learning the latest in keeping cyber information networks secure.

“Most everyone here, their day job is going to be to secure their corporation,” said Sean Jackson, the general manager of HackWest. “They’ll do a better job of securing that if they know how the hackers are getting in. So we want to teach them how they get in.”

There was a table set up where hackers were teaching others the importance of removing the EMMC chip out of cell phones, so personal information can’t be retrieved from it if a phone is sold.

But of all the things hackers are learning, it was the opportunity to open a Diebold voting machine that had them really excited.

Jackson says he recently purchased 12 of them from a re-seller who got them from an insurance company.

“They’re the exact same model that were used in Utah in 2016,” said Jackson.

Hackers spent at least two days figuring out what functions the chips performed, what information could be obtained from the system, and how to manipulate the software.

“It’s about as secure as everyone thought they were, which is not very,” said a hacker who only wanted to be identified at “Stauf.”

Hackers determined that by following a specific sequence of actions while shutting down the machine, they could manually set some controls.

“I can see network settings, I can see security settings, and I can see how it’s being encrypted,” said Jackson during a demonstration.

All that information would be valuable to a hacker who is up to no good.

“It’s been proven you can’t change a vote, but you can create enough doubt to throw the vote out,” said Jackson. “Until we can have a system that is secure, we shouldn’t be using electronics to make votes. It’s a pain to use paper and chads, but it’s not hackable from a distance.

Jackson says if someone can gain access to a lot of machines and knows they’re in a heavy republican or democratic area, it would be relatively easy to cast doubt into that particular machines electronics.

“If you could alter the machines and throw out those votes, you could swing the vote for the ones that weren’t altered,” he said.

Those particular models have a paper trail if a machine was found to be altered or compromised in any way.

“When we walk into a polling station, we think about how we can attack it and how we can exploit,” said Stauf. “Not necessarily being a bad person, but being a person who is more secure and aware of what’s important.”

The hackers say they just want the public to be aware of what’s possible from their end.

“Hopefully, as more research is done on these, we can change the industry and make elections better for America,” said Jackson.

We left a message with the company that makes those Diebold voting machines. They haven’t yet responded.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

mayor mendenhall ballpark Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Dan Rascon

Winners announced of SLC Ballpark Next Design competition

The competition that spread across the country asked for designs of what to do with Smith’s Ballpark which will no longer be home of the Salt Lake Bees come the 2025 season.

1 day ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Eliza Pace

Health department looks for visitors that encountered diseased bat at Dinosaur National Monument

TriCounty Health Department is looking for any visitors that encountered a diseased bat while at Dinosaur National Monument on or around May 28. 

1 day ago

Pothole repair...

Katija Stjepovic

From snow plows to pothole repair, UDOT crews have been busy

First it was the snow that never seemed to stop and now it's pothole repair, it has been an incredibly busy year for road crews at the Utah Department of Transportation.

1 day ago

Falls in the Ogden Waterfall Canyon Trail...

Mike Anderson

Heavy runoff restoring scenery after years of drought

While the heavy runoff has brought some flood damage, it has also restored some of the scenery we've lost over several years of drought.

1 day ago

(KSL TV)...

SAM METZ Associated Press

Adult filmmakers ask judge to delay Utah law requiring porn sites verify user ages

A group representing the adult film industry is asking a judge to put on hold a Utah law requiring porn and other adult websites verify user ages. The Free Speech Coalition challenged the law in federal court

1 day ago

One of the reserved campsites needing clean up of debris....

Jed Boal

Snapped trees, avalanche debris still remain in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Due to the record-breaking snowfall and avalanches, spring cleanup in Little Cottonwood Canyon will take a little longer this year.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Hackers get into voting machines during ‘HackWest’ convention