US scientists 'hack' India electronic voting machines

Indian officials inspect an electronic voting machine (2009) India's voting machines are considered to be among the most tamperproof

Related Stories

Scientists at a US university say they have developed a technique to hack into Indian electronic voting machines.

After connecting a home-made device to a machine, University of Michigan researchers were able to change results by sending text messages from a mobile.

Indian election officials say their machines are foolproof, and that it would be very difficult even to get hold of a machine to tamper with it.

India uses about 1.4m electronic voting machines in each general election.

'Dishonest totals'

A video posted on the internet by the researchers at the University of Michigan purportedly shows them connecting a home-made electronic device to one of the voting machines used in India.

Professor J Alex Halderman, who led the project, said the device allowed them to change the results on the machine by sending it messages from a mobile phone.

Start Quote

It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machine”

End Quote Alok Shukla Indian Election Commission

"We made an imitation display board that looks almost exactly like the real display in the machines," he told the BBC. "But underneath some of the components of the board, we hide a microprocessor and a Bluetooth radio."

"Our lookalike display board intercepts the vote totals that the machine is trying to display and replaces them with dishonest totals - basically whatever the bad guy wants to show up at the end of the election."

In addition, they added a small microprocessor which they say can change the votes stored in the machine between the election and the vote-counting session.

India's electronic voting machines are considered to be among the most tamperproof in the world.

There is no software to manipulate - records of candidates and votes cast are stored on purpose-built computer chips.

Paper and wax seals

India's Deputy Election Commissioner, Alok Shukla, said even getting hold of machines to tamper with would be very difficult.

"It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machine," he told the BBC.

"Before the elections take place, the machine is set in the presence of the candidates and their representatives. These people are allowed to put their seal on the machine, and nobody can open the machine without breaking the seals."

The researchers said the paper and wax seals could be easily faked.

However, for their system to have any impact they would need to install their microchips on many voting machines, no easy task when 1,368,430 were used in the last general election in 2009.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More South Asia stories

RSS

Features

  • An undated file photo posted on 27 August 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, showing IS fighters waving the group's flag from a damaged government fighter jet in Raqqa, Syria.Adapt or die?

    IS militants seem to be changing tactics after air strikes


  • signClean and tidy

    Things that could only happen in a Hong Kong protest


  • Child eating ice creamTooth top tips

    Experts on ways to encourage children to look after their teeth


  • Almaz cleaning floorAlmaz's prison

    Beaten and raped - the story of an African servant in Saudi Arabia


  • Train drawn by Jonathan Backhouse, 1825Original 'geeks'

    What hobby did this drawing start in 1825?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.