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11-Year-Old Hacks into Mock Florida Election Results Website in Under 10 Minutes

A picture taken on October 17, 2016 shows an employee typing on a computer keyboard at the headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow. / AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY Thibault MARCHAND (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

An 11-year-old boy hacked into a mock-up of a Florida state election website to change the voting results in under ten minutes at the world’s largest yearly hacking convention on Friday.

Organizers of the event, DEFCON 26, said in a statement that 11-year-old Emmett Brewer was one out of 50 children participating in the challenge to achieve the feat in such a short amount of time.

Brewer, along with the other children between the ages of eight to 16 years old, participated in the “DEFCON Voting Machine Hacking Village,” which allowed the children to change candidate names, party names, and vote count totals.

Nico Sell, one of the organizers of the event who also co-founded an organization which teaches kids how to become hackers, said an 11-year-old girl was also able to hack into the same mock Florida election website in about 15 minutes, tripling the vote totals on the site.

“These are very accurate replicas of all of the sites,” Sell told PBS NewsHour Sunday. “These things should not be easy enough for an 8-year-old kid to hack within 30 minutes, it’s negligent for us as a society.”

Sell said the idea for the event came about in 2017 after adult hackers breached similar voting sites in under five minutes, adding that the exercise proved that U.S. voting machines are so easy to hack into that a child could do it.

“I think the general public does not understand how large a threat this is, and how serious a situation that we’re in right now with our democracy,” she said.

One digital firm showed just how easy it is to hack into a voting machine by releasing a video showing how it is done. In 2016, digital security firm Cylance took a voting machine used in the 2008 presidential election to demonstrate how easy it is to manipulate voter data.

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