Hursti vs. Sequoia in Riverside County Hack Challenge

Original article published January 14, 2007 in Desert Sun, Palm Springs CA

Hacking Debate Gains Traction

by Nicole C. Brambila

Could a computer programmer hack into Riverside County voting machines in 15 minutes without any tools?

Supervisor Jeff Stone bets not.

Frustrated with confrontations from Save R Vote, a Temecula-area community
watchdog group created to oversee Riverside County elections, Stone challenged the group on Dec. 5 to hack into the county's voting machines, laying odds it couldn't be done.

But that was before the group hired Finnish computer programmer Harri Hursti -- who successfully tampered with a Diebold voting machine for the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy" -- to attempt the hack.

Now Stone has thrown a couple of ground rules into the mix -- no tools and no
dismantling the machine. And, the hacker has to infiltrate the system in 15 minutes, the estimated time it takes a voter to do his or her civic duty.

Tom Courbat, executive director of Save R Vote, contends the risk does not reside with the 15 minutes when voters are
in the booth -- but when the machines are left unattended at voting precincts or unsecured in the county's warehouse.

"It just doesn't serve a purpose to put those types of restrictions on it," he
said. "Voters need to know if the system is at risk at times other than
when a voter walks up to the machine."

Verne Lauritzen, Stone's chief of staff, said Tuesday the blue ribbon committee supervisors formed will look at security breach issues. The hack, he said, should
be attempted in the context of election night conditions.

"If there's somebody that can demonstrate that they can hack into the machines we want to know about it," he said. "And, then we'll be throwing away a lot of machines."

View Stone's letter
Stone letter to the Honorable Bruce McPherson (119 KB PDF)

0108_stoneletter.pdf119.83 KB