Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Could Hacktivists hack a Diebold Machine? 28 September '11
Today we learned that our democracy could be hacked by an eighth grader with 26 bucks.
That’s what a security assessment team with the US Department of Energy discovered when they successfully hacked into a Diebold electronic voting machine - and were able to change voting results without leaving a trace behind.
Here's how they did it:
Inserting alien electronics into the electronic voting machine in a classic man-in-the-middle attack allows would-be vote tamperers to control the touch screen, but also information being sent to the voting machine's computer. The cost of parts for this attack is $10 to $26 in retail quantities, much cheaper in volume. This attack does not require understanding what the computer or microprocessor in the voting machine is doing.
These , the folks who cracked this machine, by the way, are the same guys that make sure the facilities that manufacture our nuclear weapons are secure - this is a government agency that did this - and the security assessment team leader said about their ability to hack this voting machine, “this is a national security issue.”
Despite all this - in next year’s election - 30% of voters are expected to use these very same “hack-easy” voting machines - that the rest of the world have shelved citing security concerns.
And today - with the rise of hack-activist groups like Anonymous - this gaping hole in the security of our elections - could be exploited for absurd purposes.
We’ve already seen what Anonymous is capable of - from taking down government websites in Tunisia - Egypt - Libya - Syria - and Bahrain - to hacking into emails belong to the security firm HB Gary Federal - to taking on Bank of America - to organizing mass protests against San Francisco's transportation system - to most recently uncovering the identity of a New York City cop who maced women on Wall Street and posting his name, address, and family members on the web - and the list really goes on and on and on.
So imagine - if they and other hackers coordinated together to hack into voting machines nationwide - and skew the voting results of, say, the Republican Party Primaries coming up in a couple of months.
Suddenly - Libertarian hero Ron Paul might be the guy to take on President Obama.
Can you see the Republican leaders’ heads exploding?!
Or maybe the hackers just want to be mischievous - and suddenly these Diebold voting machines record millions of write-in votes for Lady Gaga - and Republicans then have to rally around GaGa's platform of gay rights - imagine that.
I know this sounds like a joke - but it's serious.
If our voting machines are so vulnerable that an eighth grader with basic Radio Shack tools can hack into them - think about what a collective of people around the world who devote their lives to hacking computers - and aren't too pleased with our government right now - could do.
Maybe they'll just wait until the next general election to hack the vote.
Can you imagine what would happen if on election day next year - when the votes are counted - we discover that Scooby-Doo was just elected president?
Yeah - we'd be just as surprised too.
Can you see the headlines around the world?
"Scooby Doo wins in a landslide!"
"Americans elect a cartoon dog!"
Frankly, given the Republican field right now, that might be an improvement - and would at least be a dog's revenge for Mitt Romney tying his dog to the roof of his car and driving hundreds of miles.
Anchor: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was in Pittsburgh today for a fundraising visit. He answered some questions about a Boston Globe report that during a family vacation 24 years ago he strapped his dog's cage with the dog inside it to the top of his car during a 12 hour road trip.
Mitt Romney: you know, PETA has not been my fan over the years ... they're unhappy that my dog likes fresh air.
The serious point here is that if We The People created a government to protect and administer the commons, if we own the government as part of that commons, then the most important part of that commons of the government is the vote. To quote Thomas Paine, it's the beating heart of democracy.
So privatizing that vote - handing it over to companies that handle our votes in secret and are not transparent and not accountable to us - is a serious crime against democracy itself.
Maybe a Scooby Doo presidency would finally lead to the long overdue legalization of marijuana.
That's The Big Picture.