It has been nearly 20 years since Bill Gates jumped on the stage at the COMDEX trade show and introduced a new operating system called Windows CE. So, you can imagine the dismay when a reporter for Vice News discovers that some Diebold voting machines that will be used in the 2016 election are still running outdated versions of the Microsoft operating system.
Vice interviews University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman, who says the U.S. is “painting a bullseye” on its election system by using antiquated touchscreen voting machines. (The segment is available to HBO subscribers.)
The reporter for Vice, Michael Moynihan, gives a slight chuckle when looking at a Diebold machine and notes that it is running a 2003 version of “WindowsCE.net.”
Moynihan asks: “Windows CE is not supported?”
And Halderman, stating the obvious, replies that is is “not current Windows, no.”
The Diebold AccuVote machines are still in use in Utah, Alaska and Georgia, and Halderman said he was able to develop “vote-stealing software” that someone could easily install.
Here’s more of Halderman’s research, which notes that an attacker could “create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities—a voting-machine virus.”
The Vice report follows a similar report from ZDNet, which yesterday quoted security experts who noted that “voting machines are easy to tamper with, and in several key battleground states ballots will be nearly impossible to verify.” Those that are most at risk are known as Direct Recording Electronic Systems, and the ZDNet report says some of the devices are “sitting ducks for anyone with basic hacking skills.”
And while voter fraud is highly unusual, this election is anything but ordinary, with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump routinely saying that the election is “rigged” and Russian cyberattackers blamed for interfering in the election.