A recent Princeton University study alleges new electronic voting machines are easily hacked, while the manufacturer of those machines used in Utah says security features prevent such breaches. Whom do you trust?
1. Check into a midrange hotel and steal the key of your room’s minibar. (A Sept. 13 study by Princeton University computer scientists found minibar keys open security locks on many voting machines. Keys from cheap file cabinets, available at office supply stores, or jukeboxes also work.) Make yourself a gin & tonic from the minibar. This should more than compensate the hotel for loss of the key.
2. Now comes the hard part: Have a computer hacker friend write a program to “steal” electronic votes for your favorite candidate, then download the program to a memory card purchased from a local computer store. Put the memory card, the mini-bar key'and a standard headphone jack with the headphones cut off'into your pocket, shirtsleeves or blouse, and head for your local polling place.
3. When it’s your turn to vote, approach the voting booth in a nonchalant manner. Make a comment to the next person in line: “I’m sure glad they got rid of paper ballots. They scared me.” Palm the minibar key. (Caution: Voting booths at many Utah precincts no longer have curtains, just small privacy shields on either side of the new touch-screen computer screens. You will need to slip your hacking equipment into your sleeve or blouse so the voter next-door won’t notice you digging in your pockets.)
4. Move your left arm back and forth as if you were “voting.” Meanwhile, with your right hand, feel the side of the voting machine for the memory-card door and lock. Unlock the door, remove the machine’s memory card, and slip your own memory card into the slot. (The Princeton study found this should take about one minute.)
5. Reboot the voting machine by pressing the power button located next to the memory-card slot. (The Princeton study found simply restarting the machine would cause it to load programs from any card in the slot.) Your vote-stealing program is now installed. It should additionally infect all future memory cards used in the machine, thus spreading the virus when cards are later removed for counting.
Caution: Prior to pressing the power button, plug your headphone jack into the machine’s headphone slot. This will stop the machine making an audible chiming noise when it reboots, potentially alarming elderly poll workers. If volunteers at your polling place seem hard of hearing, this precaution may be skipped.
6. Repeat Step 4 in reverse. Leave the polling place, saying to the next person in line,
“That was easy.”
7. Go home; make yourself a gin & tonic. Sit back, switch on the TV and wait for election results. Whoopee! Your candidate won! Isn’t democracy fun?