#CyberFLASH: Rise of e-voting is inevitable, as is risk of hacking

voteIt took just one typo in one line of code to elect a malevolent computer program mayor of Washington, D.C.

In the fall of 2010, the District staged a mock election to test out a new online voting system, and invited hackers to check its security. A team from the University of Michigan took them up on the offer. They quickly found a flaw in the code and broke in.

They changed every vote. Master Control Program, the self-aware software that attempts to take over the world in the film Tron, was a runaway write-in candidate for mayor. Skynet, the system that runs a robot army in the Terminator franchise, was elected to Congress. And Bender, the hard-drinking android in the cartoon Futurama, became a member of the school board.

Incredibly, it took D.C. officials two days to realize they had been hacked.

The use of Internet voting is exploding. Nearly 100 Ontario municipalities are using it in Monday’s election – including one that will even ditch paper ballots entirely. Proponents contend it is not only more convenient, but more equitable, giving people who cannot get to physical polling stations the same opportunity to vote as everyone else.

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