Before this report, we’ll begin with John Brakey’s affidavit.
Affidavit of John Roberts Brakey
I, John R Brakey, swear or affirm:
- I live at 5947 South Placita Picacho El Diablo, Tucson, Arizona 85706
- I am Executive Director of Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections (AUDIT AZ).
- I am well acquainted with electronic voting and have been working in the area of machine counted elections in general since 2004.
- My specialty is evaluating the vulnerability and reliability of election systems.
- I have been investigating many of the twenty-four Wisconsin counties that are conducting a recount of the 2016 presidential race using optical scanner voting machines instead a recount by hand.
- I learned that the machines in many of these counties are vulnerable to insider or sophisticated hacking because election results are transmitted through a cellular modem that is connected to the Internet.
- In particular, I confirmed that the scanning machines used in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties contain a cellular modem to allow results to be sent over the Internet making them vulnerable to insider and sophisticated hackers.
- Hand recounts are more reliable and accurate than recounting by machine.
- The only way to know for certain that hacking has not compromised an election is to conduct a hand recount of all votes.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Date 12/12/16 John Brakey
5947 South Placita Picacho El Diablo
Tucson, Arizona 85706
The following is a report by Jim March Simpson and Jill Simpson that contains some of the most valuable information an expedition can glean from the recount in Wisconsin. It describes the specific mechanism by which a hack can occur in ES&S DS200 machines hooked into a wireless modem with a sim card:
Jill and I have been on the trail of a series of clues showing that wireless subversion of vote totals and
election processes is possible and is occuring in the field. People known to be involved in past election
fraud efforts have been tracked hiring staff to build a wireless communication “interruptor”. Subversion
of cellular communications by both law enforcement and criminals is a well understood field and the
entire United States government from FBI Director Comey on down have denied that ties to the general
Internet from voting machines exist. As we’ll show, Comey lied to the general public and congress on
this key point. We’re going to show the extent of the problem and the security implications. We are
calling for an immediate ban on the use of wireless communications in election machines and a security
review of the ES&S DS200 and other newer-generation voting machines that have not been subjected to
any “red team attack” (“penetration testing”) security reviews.
The DS200 is an optical scan ballot processing device that is in broad use across the country; it’s fairly
small and slow and is therefore meant for precinct duty or in smaller counties it can process the mail-in
votes. It is a “graphic scanner” as opposed to the old mark-sense technology and is capable of storing
the ballot image files that it scans. However, ES&S included an easily accessible software switch that
allows election administrators to destroy the graphic images immediately after they’re scanned and the
voter intent is processed – a questionable feature at best.
Of equal concern however is wireless modems shipped with the machines or in some cases added after
the fact, and the implications for that data communication from the field when viewed as proof there is
an online gateway into each county’s “crown jewels” – the one machine per county that tallies the vote
and reports the final official numbers. That device shouldn’t be externally accessible at all, but to
facilitate in-bound data streams from the DS200 on election night, a dangerous connection must be
This project was made possible by funding gratefully received from AUDIT AZ, Protect our Vote,
RecountNow.org, TrustVote.org and all others working at being the “WE”. AS you know that how
hard that is to do. After realizing that 24 out of 72 counties were going to only machine count we
broke into two teams focusing mainly the counties that were machine counting ballots. Team 1
was John Brakey and Chris Sautter” Team 2 was Jim March Simpson and Jill Simpson This
investigation started in Wisconsin due to the recount the Stein campaign ordered and happened
with the collaboration of John Brakey of AUDIT-AZ and the Green Party of Wisconsin and the
national-level Green Party.
After several days on the road with John Brakey questioning election official in Milwaukee and asking
how the results from the precincts/wards were transferred from the ES&S DS200 to the Election
Management System “EMS”. Brakey asked “How do you transfer the results, by soft shoe network,
or telephone landline modem or SIM card. The official said “SIM card”. Immediately after that
John Brakey contacted team 2 and Jim March Simpson who is one of the best geeks in the field and
asked him to investigate the cellular network system.
A point about the Wisonsin recount: doing a machine recount of votes is like asking for a 2nd
receipt from a deposit at an ATM machine. It’s EXACTLY the same except you can trust the ATM
because it tied to an account, it is not anonymous and is audited daily. Elections are a very
Chapter 1: Understanding the Architecture (and central vote total vulnerabilities)
Per our discussions with county election officials in Wisconsin and other digging current and past we
have established the following facts:
* On election night the precinct (actually “ward” in WI) voting machines send data to the central
vote counting location (and machines) via the wireless connection – and this connection is
started by the pollworker in the field. This is an important detail we’ll come back to in a bit.
* The connection goes through the Verizon wireless network and into the central vote count
location through a “VPN” – Virtual Private Network. A VPN is a method corporations often use
to create secure inbound connections, for example allowing a work-at-home employee to
securely get to the company’s internal computer systems that are not otherwise Internet-facing.
* The actual setup of this VPN connection was facilitated by ES&S – all of the county election
staff and techs we talked to were fuzzy on the exact details but threw around a lot of buzzwords
like “router” and “firewall”. Worse, all assured me that the WI state election board people who
allow specific voting machines to be purchased and used in WI “would have checked all that” –
all used words more or less to that effect. (We have multiple examples on audio.) The most
technically detailed information came by conference call with a county IT staffer in Sauk
County who was at least certain that VPN technology was in use.
* A “firewall” is, best case, a device that sits between one or more computers you want to
remain secure and the general Internet. It allows people inside the secure area to make contact
with the Internet while blocking inbound connections from evil hackers from the general
Internet…basically a one-way filter. Remember how I said that the DS200s were initiating the
connection? That means inbound connections are possible. Yes, there’s security of some sort,
and yes a VPN connection can be built quite solidly. But the security in this case is not tested
and is of an unknown type that the county election official customers don’t seem to understand.
* When we were finally able to ask one of the state-level voting system testing and approval
people about this, that person told us that no, there was no “penetration testing” (ie: “test
hacking” to check for vulnerabilities) and that they relied on the Federal voting system
certification system and testing process to do that sort of analysis. (Yes, we have this on audio
* From our own examination of the federal test lab and certification systems, we can state
authoritatively that they aren’t checking either!
* The only official penetration testing that we are aware of were the “red team attacks”
authorized by the state of California in 2006 – and the DS200 didn’t ship until 2011:
Upshot: in order to allow cellular data communication, opening an entry point into the central vote
counting systems has to happen.
Can that entry point be exploited?
It is common for serious system administrators to understand “black hat hacking” techniques so as to be
able to prevent them, although this mindset is almost completely missing in election security thinking!
The literature on exploiting VPN connections flourishes. From the standpoint of a “lone wolf” hacker,
it’s possible to determine which VPN security products are in play and attack known vulnerabilities:
What a determined attacker with government-level resources can do is much more frightening:
That’s what our own government can do. I don’t think we’re the only ones with this class of
capability…the Russians and Chinese are well known players in this field. The British, Germans,
Israelis and many others aren’t that far behind.
Pay attention to the sheer number (percentages) of VPN systems vulnerable should the NSA throw
significant resources into cracking a small number of cryptographic key supports (last link above).
Would such an exploit (remote alteration of vote totals in the central count) pay off in terms of an
actual altered election result?
In Wisconsin there are some good points to the election process that would make such an exploit
difficult. The state requires each county to save the digital images of each ballot at the DS200 and
optional DS850 (high speed version) scanner. These ballots are available as a public record. Knowing
this, informed party officials for example can double-check elections and just the known ability to do so
will likely dissuade at least some would-be election hackers.
However, in the state of Iowa there is no legal access to these ballot images. In Ohio numerous
jurisdictions are destroying them after use. In Colorado insane financial barriers to access are
widespread…and so on. If the original paper ballots cannot be referenced after the fact without an
expensive challenge and the graphic images aren’t available (or are destroyed), tampering with the
central electronic records can subvert the election.
Chapter 2: Vulnerabilities at the precinct machine level (direct cellular hacking)
In St. Croix County WI there was a visible tamper evident seal in place on one of the screws that lead into
the “guts” of the device. Various concerned people took pictures of the machines in question and one picture (as seen on the right) poses obvious questions. The red arrow points to the make and model of an
internal cellular modem. Here’s the data sheet:
If we look on page two we see “TCP/IP Functions” – “DNS Resolve” means it can hit websites, FTP
means “File Transfer Protocol” (on the Internet), POP3 means Email while PPP is about doing a direct
connection between two machines, often over the general Internet and is likely how ES&S has these
machines at least try and maintain a connection back to their own county’s home base central tabulator
station. This is a full-tilt Internet-capable cellular modem.
We know that the device used in Wisconsin uses the Verizon network and there’s a report from Florida
showing the same thing is approved – note that it was tested purely for functionality, not for security:
There’s references there to versions for other cellular networks (Sprint, AT&T, etc.). So far we’re seeing
Verizon in Wisconsin and Florida but we’ve just started down this rabbit hole.
A few years ago Jill was tipped that there was an individual running advertizing at the monster.com job
board for people who could “interrupt” wireless data communications once fraud was detected. Jill
knew who this was and started tracking it in terms of whether or not it could be adapted to election
fraud, working with attorney Cliff Arnbeck in Ohio. Now that we know cellular data communications
in election results is in play, we can see how this class of technology could be adapted to election fraud.
This could also affect pollbooks and the rest of the election infrastructure. Jill also went to the ES&S
offices this summer to look at their patent wall and see what was relevant to wireless tech.
Let’s put a few more pieces together. There’s an infamous device in use by law enforcement called a
“Stingray” by the Harris corporation:
The Stingray works by faking being a cell phone tower and getting nearby cellphones to jump to it – at
which point the traffic back and forth to those phones can be intercepted. The Stingray is a big
expensive critter in large part because it’s range is fairly massive – it’s meant to be plugged into serious
antennas. So do smaller versions exist? Sadly, yes:
The short form is that Verizon makes a cellular range extender for $250. You plug it into an Internet
connection and it becomes a tiny little cell tower by design. A hacked version can tamper with the data
streams in and out of nearby cellphones – basically a budget Stingray with a range of 15 to 40 feet. Put
a slightly better antenna on it, put it in a backpack with a power supply and cellular-to-Ethernet gateway
device and you could do a lot to a DS200-based election. This is what can be done on an extreme
budget – there’s no telling what hackers with the resources of, say, the Russian government or for that
matter the NSA can do.
Important: if you read the literature we cite on VPN hacking, one known attack method is to intercept
the “hash” of the password that the voting machine in the field uses to initiate the connection back to
home base and then “crack the hash” – in other words use brute-force methods to compare the hash
(encrypted password) with long lists of known passwords such as dictionary words, dictionary words
with numbers added, upper and lower-case variants, etc. Therefore, in theory an attacker doesn’t need
to raid the cellular connections at ALL the precincts with multiple “budget Stingrays”. You only need
“Cracking the hash” is still a mathematically difficult challenge but it’s been made easier of late by the
fact that serious game-grade video cards can be used to do massive levels of calulation…and you can
also use a bunch at once if you’re really serious. See also:
The term “Interrupter”does show up in cellular blocking technology which was part of what was being
Jill has personally observed, in various Republican political offices, various ballots and voting
machines including the latter being disassembled and evaluated for security issues. Those of us in the
election protection community cannot get access to these machines to check for vulnerabilities and
show defenses but political operatives have full access to understanding the intricacies of these systems.
(Note: we sometimes get access to older models that got put in storage and a government agency forgot
to pay the storage fees at which point they turn up on Ebay(!). That’s happened twice now.)
Other DS200 Security Issues
The DS200 has a standard socket inside for one of these cellular modem plug-in boards. It also has a
USB port on the rear and USB is also likely accessible from the pinouts to the data socket for the
cellmodem. There’s three USB ports for memory sticks behind a locked door – that’s how the ballot
images are retained. These all provide a hardware attack surface to plug in illicit data and programs
including the ability to switch the cellular modem to “full internet mode”.
The DS200 saves graphic images to flash drives. Since that drive is removable it could have
programming added via that card, if the security isn’t set up correctly. Access to the insides of these
devices is very easy; they use standard Torx security screw bits available any any decent hardware shop.
It’s very important to remember that some counties are deliberately destroying the graphic scans of the
ballots. In such jurisdictions a “man in the middle” attack against the cellular data connection in and
out of these machines would be extremely dangerous as it could not be detected without detailed review
of the paper ballots. In Florida where this issue is in play, review of paper ballots once they’ve been
scanned is flat-out illegal.
We can find no evidence that anybody in government or the voting system test lab and certification
systems have reviewed the security implications of the DS200 wireless capabilities. They tested to
make sure the products worked together as ES&S intended but they didn’t go to the next level and ask
“what else can this stuff do?”
Did Comey Lie?
FBI Director Comey told the American people and specifically Congress that the US voting machines
are not connected to the Internet. As we’ve seen, at least in the case of the extremely popular DS200
voting machine, that wasn’t true. They are physically connected to the Internet, without question.
ES&S would argue that there is a software block in place but as far as we can tell nobody has tested the
efficiency of that block or checked to see if it can be subverted. Anything connected to the Internet is
hackable if you find the right hacker and pay Verizon $250. This is an intolerable situation
The Muske Affidavits
When we went to the St. Croix County Clerk on 12/6/16 they were unable to provide period-era
maintenance documents for the machines that had broken tamper-evident seals into the guts of the
machines. What they did instead was get an affidavit from the alleged sole tech from ES&S who came
out to service the machines. There’s two versions because on the first he apparently forgot a detail on
paragraph 11 page 2.
The first thing that stands out is that this could be fabricated from top to bottom, or not – he might have
based it on his own service records. He clearly got one detail wrong and had to fix it.
The second issue however is that he is clearly in there doing “modem things” just before each election
cycle, which is suspicious in and of itself. We also see that at least this tech (and ES&S in general?)
was sloppy with security seals blocking access to the guts of the devices where significant other
mischief can occur such as adding memory devices containing malicious programming.
If the FBI reviewed these machines they could not have possibly stated that they were “not online”. This
begs the question: did the FBI really do any review, or was it all just a lie so his candidate could win?
Jill and I feel that we’ve made a start at the security review Comey’s people should have done (and
before that, the infamously dysfunctional voting system test lab and certification process).
We also want to point out that only during an exhaustive recount process like this can details of voting
system security vulnerabilities be fleshed out. We are extremely thankful to the Jill Stein campaign for
creating the conditions necessary to take a closer look at how elections actually happen.
Worst of all, we can see that opening the central vote count systems to outside contact via VPNs allows
an entity with government-level resources to completely “own” the electoral process in states that don’t
provide for adequate publicly-accessible checks and balances.
That in turn is an intolerable situation.
For the pdf of this report (including the exhibits), click here.