11 August 2018

Children can easily hack American election data

Bianca Lewis, 11, has many hobbies. She likes Barbie, video games, fencing, singing… and hacking the infrastructure behind the world’s most powerful democracy.

“I’m going to try and change the votes for Donald Trump,” she tells me. “I’m going to try to give him less votes. Maybe even delete him off of the whole thing.” 

Fortunately for the President, Bianca is attacking a replica website, not the real deal. She’s taking part in a competition organised by R00tz Asylum, a non-profit organisation that promotes “hacking for good”.

Its aim is to send out a dire warning: the voting systems that will be used across America for the mid-term vote in November are, in many cases, so insecure a young child can learn to hack them with just a few minute’s coaching...

Hacking the real websites would be illegal. So instead, Ms Sell’s team created 13 sites that mimicked the real websites, gaping vulnerabilities and all, for 13 so-called “battleground" states - parts of the country where the vote is expected to be tight.

Over the course of a day, 39 kids aged between 8 and 17 took the challenge - 35 of them succeeded in bypassing the trivial security. Pranks ensued...

While the hacks learnt here wouldn’t change actual vote counts - even if carried out for real - they could alter how the vote results were displayed on official websites. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the furore that would be caused were an official election website to declare the wrong candidate the winner.

The fallibility of these systems has been of concern since 2016’s presidential election, and in some cases well before that. Each state in the US is able to come up with its own system, and with budgets tight, many are relying on poorly secured databases and voting machines that run software that’s well over a decade old.
More information at the BBC.


  1. 11 year old kid wants to remove Trump from election list. I believe the phrase is 'res ipsa loquitur'.

  2. Our entire voting system is in absolute shambles: vulnerability to hacking, lack of a definitive paper trail- not to mention the pernicious gerrymandering and willful proliferation of false info on where and when to vote (in certain neighborhoods), and/or insistence on unneeded ID! The one thing that hasn't been a threat is the so called voter fraud that President Trump disingenuously manufactured and whose own personal showcase "investigation" had to finally admit could find no supporting evidence.



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