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Hackers Take on Darpa's $10 Million Voting Machine

Published: August 11, 2019
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Source: Wired

For the last two years, hackers have come to the Voting Village at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas to tear down voting machines and analyze them for vulnerabilities. But this year’s Village features a fancy new target: a prototype secure voting machine created through a $10 million project at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. You know it better as Darpa, the government's mad science wing.

Announced in March, the initiative aims to develop an open source voting platform built on secure hardware. The Oregon-based verifiable systems firm Galois is designing the voting system. And Darpa wants you to know: its endgame goes way beyond securing the vote. The agency hopes to use voting machines as a model system for developing a secure hardware platform—meaning that the group is designing all the chips that go into a computer from the ground up, and isn’t using proprietary components from companies like Intel or AMD.

“The goal of the program is to develop these tools to provide security against hardware vulnerabilities,” says Linton Salmon, the project’s program manager at Darpa. “Our goal is to protect against remote attacks.”

Other voting machines in the Village are complete, deployed products that attendees can take apart and analyze. But the Darpa machines are prototypes, currently running on virtualized versions of the hardware platforms they will eventually use. A basic user interface is currently being provided by the secure voting firm Voting Works.

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