Hackers Breach U.S.Voting Machines in 90 Minutes in DEF CON Competition

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Residents of Miami-Dade cast their votes on electronic voting machines October 28, 2004 in Miami, Florida. Getty Images

Hackers were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in less than two hours at a competition in Las Vegas.

The event exposed glaring deficiencies in the security of U.S. voting infrastructure.

According to the Register, the hackers at the DEF CON conference Friday were given voting machines, and competed to access them by physically breaking them open and hacking them remotely.

Within 90 minutes, the hackers exposed glaring security vulnerabilities in the voting machines manufactured by multiple companies.

Some devices had remote ports, which could be used to insert devices with malicious software, others insecure WiFi connections, or outdated software such as Windows XP, rendering them exposed to hacking attacks.

The machines, manufactured by companies including Diebolds, Sequoia and Winvote equipment, were purchased over eBay or at government auctions.

Russian state-backed hackers allegedly sough to breach U.S. voting systems during the U.S. presidential election. In June, the Intercept published leaked NSA documents showing that Russian agents hacked a U.S. voting systems manufacturer in the weeks leading to last year’s presidential election.

NSA contractor Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was subsequently charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.

“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we've uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, the Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Global Advisors and Managing Director of Cambridge Global Capital, who designed the hacking competition. 

“The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security,” he told the Register.

One machine hacked in under two minutes in the competition was not fully secured, while not all are used in elections now, reported the website.

In testimony to Congress in June, former FBI director James Comey described Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, and warned that the hackers "will be back."