E-Voting Machine Easily Reprogrammed To Play Pac-Man

from the wokka-the-vote dept

Tim Lee points us to Alex Halderman and Ariel Feldman's latest demonstration of the hackability of e-voting machines: they reprogrammed a Sequoia machine that was used in the 2008 elections to play Pac-Man:
The really important point is that they did this in three afternoons (and remember, these machines are often left totally unguarded, in the open at polling places for days before elections) without breaking any of the "tamper-resistant" seals that are supposed to alert anyone to any foul play. As Halderman noted:
We could have reprogrammed it to steal votes, but that's been done before, and Pac-Man is more fun!
So now my only question is whether or not they get a cease and desist from NAMCO.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Yet another reason it should be open source.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    Hmmm...

    Which is more of a waste of time?
    A) Playing Pacman at a voting booth.
    B) Voting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:07pm

    Namco C&D

    Funny, that was my first thought when I read the story.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Cast

    I vote for Inky!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Re:

    They probably MADE it open source.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Gareth, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:35pm

    Pac-Man is one thing

    But the true test of any machine is whether or not it can run DOOM...

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Pac-Man is one thing

    All American voting machines end in doom....

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 2:58pm

    In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the iconic arcade game, we reprogrammed the AVC Edge to run Pac-Man. It uses MAME to emulate the original hardware. (We own the electronics from a real Pac-Man machine.)

    Oh thank goodness, I would hate to think that a university is demonstrating the fraudulent brokenness of our election systems by using a pirated rom. My faith in the rightness of the universe is restored.


    This depresses me. These guys are doing work that is crucial to the integrity of our democracy, and they feel the need to profess to being on the up and up with the IP gulag. It's a small and petty thing, but it just broke my mind today.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    But does it run Linux?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    "The software can be replaced without breaking any of these seals, simply by removing screws and opening the case."

    Really? Can't we get someone with more than a 1st graders understanding of how to secure something to work on these things. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how ridiculous this seems.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re:

    If so, then it's only a matter of time before proper peer review kicks in to close the security holes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:44pm

    Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    I had the same thought. Two more stickers and this baby is secure!

     

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  13.  
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    J. Alex Halderman, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    How much time did they have? Is that a silk screen at the top of the machine just above the screeen?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 4:00pm

    Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    Pass the current article link to more people, so you will have company in your moment of need.

    It is amazing how closed government is (or how badly information is disseminated) that they can pull this off.

    Humans have a tendency to trust and as well to avoid digging into things very much at all when they feel they simply won't understand something well enough.

    Humans also have an inertia problem (sometimes manifested as wishful thinking) and a problem of "if I don't feel the sting immediately, I have not been hurt that much by it".

    I am going to consider writing some local relevant public official about this and asking what public steps they are taking with our current voting system to remove liability from their hands and place it into the public's hands. I suspect though that they will prefer that something be exploited silently by a few than for the house to come down ahead of elections as the product inevitably fails before public scrutiny.

    It's unfortunate that Florida and other states got such abuse for the "hanging chad" problem. This opened the door in many places to silent control of the majority vote. Florida now uses scanning machines, but these also require software. A practical receipt system (and/or other workable and statistically legitimate checks and balances protocol) needs to be implemented in **all** cases.

    [I am part of the dismal state of affairs as notice I accurate simply stated "I am going to consider". Sorry... and please pass the hanky.]

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Bruce, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Pac-Man is one thing

    That's an example of New School thinking, I prefer Old School thinking:

    Letts' Law: All programs evolve until they can send email.

    Now, GET OFF MY LAWN! :)

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 4:55pm

    Re:

    I believe that is from a [Dr. Evil]"laser"[/Dr. Evil] printer or maybe even an inkjet.
    http://www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pacman/avc-screen.jpg

     

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  18.  
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    ajgajg1134 (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 5:00pm

    More young kids would come to vote if all the voting machines were like this. :D

     

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  19.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re:

    There'd be no need or requirement for "cease and desist orders" of it was open source.

    Anyway, it would have been something on the order of a copy of Myst if it had been open source programmers working on open source software. Why waste your time on PacMan?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:49pm

    Re: Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    "but these also require software."

    Maybe a hardware based solution, where the instructions are hard coded and so can't be changed. Or you know what. A software based solution where the hard drive has a physical mechanism of making it read only. You know, like how SD and 3 1/2 floppy drives have that tab that you can flip and it makes it physically read only. I wish hard drives and flash drives had something similar, but I think some patent exists on the idea and hence it's not implemented. But of course you need some read/write medium to store the votes onto.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    (so you have two separate mediums. One that is physically read only via some physical obstruction that prevents writing to the software, and another that is read/write that the votes are stored on but no software is stored on).

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:52pm

    Re:

    Well, they would probably have to put a game more interesting than PacMan. What games do the kids play these days?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:53pm

    Re:

    So basically our voting machines have turned into a free arcade. Wonderful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Re:

    But, then again, I suppose free entertainment can be considered a public good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Hippy Hop, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 7:39pm

    If that is not hard evidence on rigged election results, I don’t know what kind of evidence they want. And to think the company ho made these machines had defended the machines to the hilt, now what can they say? Better be back to manual elections.

     

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  26.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 19th, 2010 @ 7:49pm

    Re: Re:

    That machine is made of win.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 19th, 2010 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Hmmm...

    Depends on whether your voting system gives equal value to all votes (proportional representation) or gives disproportionate value to votes in constituencies where the winning candidates have the smallest majorities (first-past-the-post).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:38am

    Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    Does this make producing screwdrivers a DMCA violation? Wasn't this part of their security and the screwdriver is circumventing it? I think MAC tools is the problem! Those pirates!

    Sorry, was that over the edge?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Re: Re: Re: E-voting security system: The Philips Head screwdriver

    Remember the 5 1/4 floppy disk? It had a read-only mechanism as well. If course, it was easily added or defeated using a hole punch or a piece of tape, but it was there!

    All of these methods are pretty easily defeated, so I do not think they would be more than security theater. Even a ROM chip can be flashed, and someone will find a way to do it inside the voting machine.

    What still amazes me is that people can gain access into the voting machines themselves. We can't put the CPU somewhere that a security guard can watch it and a cable to the touch-screen for the users in the booth? Can the CPU be in a safe of some sort? A screw protecting it? Really?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:48pm

    Re:

    but i dont trust people either

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    garmin, Aug 21st, 2010 @ 7:13am

    vote miss pacman

    get her in the white house :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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