Judge Reluctantly Approves Georgia Voting Machines, Despite Hack Concern

A judge in the US state of Georgia has lambasted state officials for not doing enough to secure vulnerable electronic voting machines ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

This, says District Judge Amy Totenberg, has forced her to approve the use of electronic voting machines – despite being “gravely concerned” that they could be hacked.

Her ruling comes after a last minute lawsuit, but she said there was simply not enough time to switch to a secure paper-based alternative before the November vote.

Reluctant approval

The lawsuit was filed in May last year against Georgia’s Secretary of State over the Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, reported the BBC.

The United States goes to the polls in November to elect new members of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

According to the BBC, Judge Totenberg said in her judgement the lawsuit had taken place at the “eleventh hour” and that switching to a paper-based voting system now could “just as readily jeopardise the upcoming elections, voter turnout and the orderly administration of the election.”

However, she also reportedly acknowledged ongoing security concerns about these machines being hacked, and the judge rebuked state officials for not dealing with the problem sooner.

“The court is gravely concerned about the state’s pace in responding to the serious vulnerabilities of its voting system – which were raised as early as 2016 – while ageing software arrangements, hardware and other deficiencies were evident still earlier,” she reportedly said.

“The state’s posture in this litigation – and some of the testimony and evidence presented – indicated that the defendants and state election officials had buried their heads in the sand,” she added.

It is understood that there are 14 states in America that use machines to record votes, with no paper-based backup.

Voting concerns

The concerns about the security of voting machines has been ongoing for a number of years now.

Last month white-hat hackers found vulnerabilities in US voting systems for a second year running at the DefCon hacking conference.

However state authorities criticised the event as unnecessarily highlighting supposed risks while presenting an inaccurate image of the security measures in place to protect such systems.

Vote hacking has taken on more urgency since alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, which included the exposure of emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Russia denies being behind that and other hacks.

In 2015 a report found that the electronic voting machine used in certain US states had a shocking level of protection from hackers.

The AVS WINVote voting terminal is a self contained unit that includes a 15-inch touchscreen and comes equipped with WLAN access, built-in battery backup power, modem, and printer.

But unfortunately the AVS WINVote machine ran a version of Windows XP Embedded that had not been updated in over ten years, and was also hard encoded with very weak passwords and encryption.

Do you know all about security? Try our quiz!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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