“Voting Village” at the DefCon IT security conference looked into a hundred voting machines and found hackable vulnerabilities in every one of them. While there are no publicly known cases of an election being swayed by bad technology or hackers – the real risk exists.
For their test, they bought three voting machines, made a sample ballot for a mock election, and then had 241 people vote on the devices at the local library. But when each of the voters printed out their ballots to be scanned, the researchers also added an error to it. Yet only 40% of the voters checked their ballots with only 6.6 percent noticing something was amiss and reported it to the election officials.
Putting a sign up warning people to check their ballots wasn’t effective. A verbal reminder was marginally effective, boosting detection up to 16%. Having a ballot cheat sheet, known professionally as a slate, was by far the most effective, boosting detection rates to 85.7% in some scenarios.
Tweaking the ballot after the voter has made their decision is electoral phishing – passing off something fraudulent that really looks and works like the real thing. Researchers proved this technique fooled the vast majority of their test group by hitting them in an unexpected location – right in the middle of the transaction. The best defense is that of a careful, skeptical online shopper – look out for unusual texts and device behavior, double check if amounts and purchases are correct, and take action if there is an issue.