Professor demonstrates Diebold flaws to Congress

Demo includes implanting virus on machine that could spread via memory cards to other machines, possibly affecting thousands of votes.

Computer science professor Edward W. Felten toted a Diebold Accu-Vote TS voting machine around Capitol Hill yesterday, demonstrating the machine's vulnerability to viruses and hackers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

"There's really no limit to the amount of mischief that can be done," he said.

In a packed hearing room, the professor demonstrated how to implant a virus on a Diebold AccuVote-TS and distort the results. ... He said he bought keys to open the unit on the Internet. The virus could, theoretically, infect portable memory cards and transfer itself to other machines, possibly upsetting thousands of votes.

A Diebold spokesman didn't dispute the vulnerabilities, but said the AccuVote is only vulnerable if a computer expert obtains unfettered access. "That's not reflective of a real election environment," he said.

Mr. Felten yesterday voiced strong support for an extension of the Helping America Vote Act that would require the use of machines with paper trails and a routine audit of those trails. The bill, proposed by Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has 215 co-sponsors, but it likely won't come up for a vote this year. It also has the backing of the League of Women Voters and the Association for Computing Machinery.

In opposition to Felten was Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon professor who consults with Pennsylvania, who testified that while the problems are severe they are easily fixed.

"Some of these vulnerabilities are severe, and require immediate repair. But the point is that they are also easily remedied," he said.


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