The New York Times has joined the vast majority of the mainstream media in dismissing any concerns President Trump’s legal team has raised amid the challenge of the 2020 presidential election results, including the possibility that ballots from electronic voting machines were tampered with. However, the Times previously sounded the alarm about how vulnerable such voting machines can be to hackers.
Back in April 2018, New York Times Opinion shared a video on its YouTube page called “How I Hacked an Election.” The video features University of Michigan Computer Science Professor J. Alex Halderman, who urged that electronic voting machines “have got to go.”
Halderman demonstrated a mock election he organized at his university using “obsolete machines” that are commonly used in normal elections to have Michigan students vote on which school is the best, their own or their arch-rival Ohio State University.
“After the chaos of the 2000 election, we were promised a modern and dependable way to vote. I’m here to tell you that the electronic voting machines Americans have got to solve the problem of voting integrity — they turned out to be an awful idea,” Halderman said. “That’s because people like me can hack them all too easily. I’m a computer scientist who’s hacked a lot of electronic voting machines. I’ve even turned one machine into a video game console. Imagines what the Russians and North Koreans can do.”
While the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency concluded the Nov. 3 vote was the “most secure election in history,” Halderman singled out a specific machine model, the Accuvote TS & TSX, which was used in several states during the 2016 election including Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania could be vulnerable to cyber attacks “that can change votes.”
Halderman went on to explain how he was able to successfully hack the voting machines he was using in his on-campus demonstration. The first step is to either buy a voting machine on eBay or “if you’re the North Koreans, hack the manufacturer and steal their software code.” The second step is to “write the virus” followed by the third step, which is to email the virus to “every election official” who is responsible for programming the voting machines with new ballots.
The hacker then is able to “hijack the ballot programming” and let election officials copy the “invisible malicious code” onto the voting machines. Finally, the malicious code “silently” steals the votes.
In front of the Michigans students, Halderman announced the winner from a printout of the electronic ballots that showed Ohio State as the winner, sparking plenty of boos from the crowd and accusations of the election being “rigged.”
“There’s a good reason we computer scientists are paranoid — it’s a golden age for hackers,” Halderman said.
After Halderman admitted to the students that he “hacked the voting machines,” he revealed that the paper ballots showed that Michigan handily won the election.
“Michigan won in a landslide and I could say this confidently because I have the real results from the safest and simplest solution: paper ballots,” Halderman said.
On Monday, the Times ran a report about a letter signed by 59 election security experts expressing confidence in the results of the 2020 election.
“Anyone asserting that a U.S. election was ‘rigged’ is making an extraordinary claim, one that must be supported by persuasive and verifiable evidence… To our collective knowledge, no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise,” the experts wrote.
One of the signatories of the letter included Halderman.