11-Year-Old Who Hacked Mock Voting Polls Wants To Help Others Using His Skills

Emmett Brewer, an eleven-year-old boy from Austin, Texas, might not be old enough to vote just yet, but he sure is old enough to change election results on a replica of the Florida state website.

While the average eleven-year-old boy might be busy with their video games, little Emmett is busy hacking his way into mock federal websites. He artfully broke into a replica of Florida's election results website in less than 10 minutes and changed names and tallies during a hackers convention, the Defcon Voting Village announced recently, raising security-related concerns ahead 0f upcoming US midterm elections.

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DefCon – short for defense readiness condition – is the world’s largest hacker conference held annually in Las Vegas, where hackers and cybersecurity experts show how easy it can be to break into computer security systems. At this year’s conference, DefCon invited children to try to hack websites in the DEFCON Voting Machine Hacking Village, a part of the hackathon that includes “13 imitation websites linked to voting in presidential battleground states,” according to PBS. Nico Sell, co-founder of the non-profit r00tz Asylum – an organization that teaches kids reverse engineering, soldering, cryptography, and responsible bug disclosure – helped organize the event.

The children were given basic instruction in performing SQL injection attacks and were encouraged to tamper with party names, vote tallies, and candidate names. While all thirty-five children, aged six to seventeen, eventually hacked into copies of the websites of six swing states during the three-day DefCon security convention, Emmett was the fastest. He effortlessly managed to change the name of the winning candidate on the replica Florida website to his own and also gave himself billions of votes.

The aim of the convention's Voting Village was also to expose security issues in other systems such as digital poll books and memory-card readers.

The National Association of Secretaries of State – who are responsible for the tallying of votes – said that while it appreciated the convention's efforts, the mock competition does not really reflect reality. It also added that the actual systems used by states consist of "unique networks and custom-built databases with new and updated security protocols". In short, it would be highly unlikely to replicate these systems, according to the association.

But, according to Emmett, he won't be using his powers for evil. He wants to use hacking to ensure the safety of the information of others. When he grows up, he hopes to get into cyber security and “help the world”. We wish this adorable boy all the luck in the world, not that he needs any!

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