Security Analysis (and Response) of Diebold Voting Machines

Ari Feldman, Alex Halderman, and Ed Felton released an amazing paper on the security of Dielbold’s e-voting technology. The paper is accompanied by a ten-minute video that demonstrates some of the vulnerabilities they’ve uncovered. Here is the paper’s abstract:

Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine

Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten
Princeton University

This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine’s hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.

Along with the various weaknesses they discuss in the paper, Felton later discovered that the lock “securing” the machine’s components from outside tampering could be opened with a standard hotel mini-bar key. Unbelievable.

Predictably, Dielbold responded (PDF) with their PR team in full spin mode, but Felton easily dispenses with their generally off-point retorts. Felton’s conclusion:

Secure voting equipment and adequate testing would assure accurate voting — if we had them. To our knowledge, every independent third party analysis of the AccuVote-TS has found serious problems, including the Hopkins/Rice report, the SAIC report, the RABA report, the Compuware report, and now our report. Diebold ignores all of these results, and still tries to prevent third-party studies of its system.

If Diebold really believes its latest systems are secure, it should allow third parties like us to evaluate them.


  1. Pingback: Privacy Digest: Privacy News (Civil Rights, Encryption, Free Speech, Cryptography)
  2. I anderstand there is a problem with the security and it seems funny that all the minibars sach as the have the same key. But look at the problem form the producer point of view. If we at were to make an individual key for avery minibar.. and you know how clients in a hotel are always loosing the keys, can you immagine the difficulty, for the hotel managment and for the producer to keep track of all the keys, al the codes etc.

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