An 11-year-old permeated the headlines last Friday after he hacked into the government website and changed election results within 10 minutes.
This record-breaking hacking happened at this year's DEFCON, where the 11-year-old Emmett Brewster and many other children were offered the chance to hack into a mock-up of a Secretary of State website.
DEFCON is the world’s larger hacker conference held annually in Las Vegas, where hackers and cybersecurity experts try to break into all kinds of computer security systems, highlighting how easy it can be to manipulate software and hardware.
The conference children to its list of those invited for this year's conference specifically 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.
According to DEFCON spokespeople, Emmett was one of about 50 children between the ages of 8 and 16 who took part in a kid-specific workshop at this year’s hacker conference.
The kids were able to manipulate various things on the mock websites, including vote counts, candidate names, and party names.
A statement by the National Association of Secretaries of State, the organization for public election officials, read: "Our main concern with the approach taken by DEFCON is that it utilizes a pseudo-environment which in no way replicates state election systems, networks or physical security.
"Providing conference attendees with unlimited physical access to voting machines, most of which are no longer in use, does not replicate accurate physical and cyber protections established by state and local governments before and on Election Day.
"We are also concerned that creating “mock” election office networks and voter registration databases for participants to defend and/or hack is also unrealistic."
Others have criticized DEFCON’s Voting Village, where attendees attempt to crack voting machines, for providing an unrealistic display of voting circumstance, including Election Systems and Software (ES & S), one of the major providers of election equipment. It was quick to reassure customers the machines wouldn’t actually be as physically accessible on election day as they were at DEFCON.
In response to ES & S, DEFCON officials released a statement criticizing them for avoiding the issue: "ES&S’s unclear comments and threats towards the Voting Village seem to be designed to create questions and cast doubt in the minds of researchers and election officials, discouraging them from pursuing these vital lines of inquiry. At a time when there is significant concern about the integrity of our election system, the public needs now more than ever to know that election equipment has been rigorously evaluated and that vulnerabilities are not just being swept under the rug.
"If nothing else, I look forward to seeing the kids to echo the achievement of DEFCONs past by rickrolling mock election websites."