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Diebold Compromised Its Own Voting Machine Security

A photo of the key on its Web site helped reproduce real duplicate keys that can open the controversial voting machines.

Thomas Claburn

January 25, 2007

1 Min Read

Chalk up another problem for embattled voting machine maker Diebold. This time, however, the culprit is Diebold itself.

The latest security lapse for Diebold is a product of the company's own marketing: A picture of a voting machine key on the Diebold Web site has been used to create real duplicate keys that can open Diebold's voting machines.

"Diebold's AccuVote-TS electronic voting machines have lousy security," security researcher J. Alex Halderman declared in a blog post on Tuesday.

The revelation follows other dilemmas for Diebold. Various media reports suggest malicious software can be installed on Diebold voting machines and the lock securing the machines can be opened with a simple hotel minibar key.

As detailed on Freedom to Tinker, Ross Kinard, a contributor to technology podcast Sploitcast, used blank keys from Ace Hardware, a drill, three cabinet locks as guides, and a file to create three keys that matched the key pictured on Diebold's site. Kinard then sent the keys to Halderman, who had a Diebold machine he had acquired in the course of his security research. Two of the three hand-filed keys opened the Diebold machine.

Diebold did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Halderman reported that on Thursday Diebold removed the picture of the key from its site. He offers this damning assessment of the security of the company's voting machines: "Security experts advocate designing systems with 'defense in depth,' multiple layers of barriers against attack. The Diebold electronic voting systems, unfortunately, seem to exhibit 'weakness in depth.' If one mode of attack is blocked or simply too inconvenient, there always seems to be another waiting to be exposed."

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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