Hacking India’s Voting Machines

This morning’s events (see previous post) came at a very weird time: 15 minutes before the planned coordinated launch of some interesting research I took part in. Not that I cared even the slightest bit his morning, but the timing actually could not have been much more awkward. I had worked through the night to and we had planned a well coordinated action to publish some interesting research simultaneously over three timezones (at 07:30 CET this morning). That plan thus ended with me in an ambulance, not knowing how much damage my son had incurred. But since everything below was already written, here is what I was supposed to post this morning…


It’s great how it really is beginning to dawn on people all over the globe that paperless voting systems have a transparency problem. This last February I was invited to India for 9 days. It was good to get some sunlight, but again I was too busy to see many sights. I first went to Delhi to speak at the launch of a new book that is critical on Electronic Voting Machines (people there all call them EVMs). After that I went to Chennai for another conference. Then I went to Hyderabad and did … absolutely nothing that I was publicly talking about until today.

We spent a number of days hacking and filming an EVM (in various states of undress) that had fallen into precisely the right hands. In what qualifies as some of the crazier days of my life Alex Halderman, Hari Prasad and yours truly were finding ways around armed roadblocks, relocating parts on circuit boards, debugging code with teams in different timezones, testing electronics, meeting with political figures surrounded by guys with machine guns and shooting parts of the video embedded below. All of this against the backdrop of the hurricane of plan-resistant chaos that is India.

Our research proved something which we really never doubted: with some preparation anyone with even momentary access to paperless voting machines can own the country. If it wasn’t fun to do it would be depressing that something that obvious needs proving over and over again. Maybe some day we’ll skip the film and just own the country instead. (Just kidding…) Some parts of India definitely looked worth owning, those rare moments I had time to look.

Anyway: never got to see the Taj Mahal. Then again: when I go to India next time, it will probably still be there. Which is much more than one can say of these EVMs. Have a look for yourself.

The more scientific writeup of all this (and much more) can be found at IndiaEVM.org. And VeTA, a new organization that unites India’s budding election transparency movement, has set up a new website at IndianEVM.com.

Please help spread this story if you can. You know how.

6 thoughts on “Hacking India’s Voting Machines”

  1. Cool! But . . . no matter how obvious the fraude . . . it will take the government months/years to be pursuaded, just like in the Netherlands.

  2. Great movie. Thank you!

    The part about the secret software problems could be expanded a little bit or have some hack displayed. It is clear to me (a programmer) why this secrecy is bad, but it may not be clear to other people of _how_ this can be used to tamper vote counting.

    Best regards from “NO to internet voting” group in Lithuania 😉

  3. Nice work! I liked the fact that you went to the effort of miniaturising the evil electronics. When doing hacks on Chip & PIN, we very frequently get complaints that the equipment we use is too big, and it is hard to persuade people that it could be shrunk to a small fraction of the size.

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