Scary. And I never knew that you could get minibar keys on the internet.
The access panel door on a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine — the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus — can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet.
On Wednesday we did a live demo for our Princeton Computer Science colleagues of the vote-stealing software described in our paper and video. Afterward, Chris Tengi, a technical staff member, asked to look at the key that came with the voting machine. He noticed an alphanumeric code printed on the key, and remarked that he had a key at home with the same code on it. The next day he brought in his key and sure enough it opened the voting machine.
This seemed like a freakish coincidence — until we learned how common these keys are.
Chris’s key was left over from a previous job, maybe fifteen years ago. He said the key had opened either a file cabinet or the access panel on an old VAX computer. A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars.
I do wonder if that makes it more or less risky to use these machines rather than paper votes. After all, there are lots of people involved in counting paper votes, and each could cheat, too. But I don’t know. I do wonder why just because the Diebold is a machine that it is suddenly worse. Or yet, only someone really naive would think any system is foolproof.