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Hackers Fail To Crack Brazilian Voting Machines

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the voting-envy dept.

Government 143

blueser writes "From Nov 10th to Nov 13th the Brazilian Government hosted a public hacking contest to test the robustness of its voting machines. 38 participants from private and public IT companies (including the Brazilian Federal Police) were divided into 9 teams, which tried several different approaches to try to tamper with the software installed on the machines, and even to physically interfere in other stages of the process. All attempts (aside from a minor one which would not compromise the overall results) failed, and observations from the participants and neutral observers will be taken into account to improve the process even further. Here is the official announcement for the contest (Google translation; Portuguese original). A summary of the results is available in the Brazilian press (original). Brazilian voting machines use Linux." US voting officials ought to be envious of their Brazilian counterparts, or ashamed, or both. Perhaps this MIT-developed cryptographic voting system offers a way forward.

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143 comments

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104468)

These obviously weren't Diebold machines.

Re:Hmm... (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104516)

Obviously this puts a lot of software produced in the US to shame.

Today it seems like it's all about selling something crappy for money in the US with an EULA where you free yourself of all responsibility.

And when someone points out the flaws the lawyers are called in to hide the fact that there is a gap that can put Grand Canyon to shame.

No wonder that the world has suffered so much malicious software.

Sure - call me a troll, but it's also an observation. Time to market is more important than quality.

Re:Hmm... (2, Insightful)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104622)

Time to market is more important than quality.

Yeah look at Ubuntu. Every 6 months on the dot no matter what the quality.
And uuh...yeah...Look at Vista. Was that 6 or 7 years to market?

Your statement doesn't hold up. ;)

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104752)

And to let U know I use Xubuntu 9.04 on my P3 computer with 320MB RAM, and It works just fine for all my browsing and development needs...

Can U even think about running Windows Vista on a machine like that with the performance that I get from my box? What would they call it...Vista lite???

Its that kind of configurability that pulls people like me towards linux...& by the way Its FREE dude :):) So what U bitchin about!!!

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104940)

And to let U know I use Xubuntu 9.04 on my P3 computer with 320MB RAM, and It works just fine for all my porn browsing and development needs...

There fixed that for ya

NOT USABLE IN USA (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106304)

For a system to be adopted in the US, it needs to be closed source, proprietary and subject to the anti-tampering and reverse engineering provisions of the DMCA.

Fraud and covert manipulation are essential "checks and balances" in the American system, ensuring that the interests of minorities like banks, insurance, pharmaceutical and petro-chemical industries are protected from the tyranny of the majority.

Re:Hmm... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104906)

Yeah look at Debian, many years was it between releases?

Re:Hmm... (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105152)

Debian is server-centric. (Though also hihgly-usable as workstation too.) Long release/support cycles there is the feature, because stability is the priority.

On other side, I have used for about two+ years Debian Sid [debian.org] as desktop at home. I had only three major breakages in all the time which required me too boot system in single user mode to repair it. And that is unstable branch which is literally "just compiled software". That easily compares to rate of reinstalls I had to do on my Windows workstation, which despite being touted as stable by MS, still breaks very easily and breaks quite often.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105514)

It's a common misconception that there are multiple years inbetween debian releases. All releases have been LESS THAN two years apart. The lone exception was Sarge, which followed woody by 35 months, just under three years. Given the problems with the Ubuntu 9 series, I think more people are seeing the detriment of time-based releases, as opposed to 'when it's stable' releases.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104646)

Quick, somebody blame it on H1B workers.

Re:Hmm... (2, Interesting)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104716)

The reason for Microsofts constant failure at security and bugs is that they outsource portions of the code still. Win ME was the first time they did that, look what happened. They still dont learn or care about it and outsource code. Look at recent GPL violations for current proof. That and they focus more on crap that has nothing to do with an Operating System.

Re:Hmm... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104652)

Sure - call me a troll, but it's also an observation. Time to market is more important than quality.

Customers get what they pay for. If they aren't willing to make security a priority and pay more for it, then they won't get it.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104828)

If they are willing to make security a priority and pay more for it, then they more often than not won't get it, either.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105320)

Customers get what they pay for. If they aren't willing to make security a priority and pay more for it, then they won't get it.

Funny, I didn't pay for Ubuntu, but somehow I feel at least an order of magnitude safer than using Windows, even windows 7. While I haven't got a virus in years (Thank you AVG, which is also free!), I know that
there are thousands viruses and security holes (even if we haven't discovered them yet) in Windows 7.

  I say sure, stereotypically you get what you pay for; but what about Windows NT where the server version cost something like $800 but was exactly the same except for setup and how many http connections it allowed? (http://oreilly.com/news/differences_nt.html) Microsoft lied and said they were different, but the binaries were compared. I read this somewhere else on Friday night, and now I am looking to sell my unopened copy of Windows 7 that I bought from Newegg for $50 months ago. Screw anyone or any company that has to lie to me.

  I agree that Microsoft has done much for the industry, friends have pointed this out when I spout my freedom doctrine. But I think the fellow below said it best:

"What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on, I can no longer believe you." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Re:Hmm... (0, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104734)

Bah, it's also an open invitation for the American Gestapo to find vulns and exploit them without reporting them. Latin America is a very politically volatile market and there are plenty of opportunities to play both ends against the middle, so to speak.

Re:Hmm... (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105032)

brasil isn't latin america, duffus. barsil is brasil. plain and simple.

our democracy is a lot more solid than our neighbor's.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106038)

From a linguistic point of view it is latin america, but you may see latin america as central america.

Re:Hmm... (2, Informative)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104916)

Simplicity --> greater security (I'm not saying the contest measured something).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Brazil#The_Brazilian_voting_machines [wikipedia.org]

The source is available to the parties.

Re:Hmm... (2, Interesting)

sslayer (968948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105316)

The voting system has been widely accepted, due in great part to the fact that it speeds up the vote count tremendously. In the 1989 presidential election between Fernando Collor de Mello and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the vote count required nine days. In the 2002 general election, the count required less than 12 hours. In some smaller towns the election results are known minutes after the closing of the ballots.

I just don't get it. In Spain we know the results of the election with more than the 90% of votes counted at 21:00, while the election itself ends at 20:00. In an hour more or two, we got the 100% minus the postal votes. And of course our system is just the goold old ballot.

Re:Hmm... (2, Insightful)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105634)

Yeah, but what is your population? From Wikipedia, about 46M. Check Bras(z)il's: 190M. Your area? 500.000 square km, versus 8 millions and a half. And bear in mind that some of the brazilian population live in areas that only can be acessed by boat or airplane - not a big fraction, of course, but we have much bigger dispersion than Spain or any other European country.

Re:Hmm... (1)

sslayer (968948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105756)

I still don't get it.

We don't go all the 40 million people the same place to vote, nor do we count the ballots one by one.

We open up nearly all schools, so every one of us is assigned the nearest from his home, just a few minutes walking. Inside each school, there are several ballot boxes, so in the end, there's no more than a few hundred ballots in each box, maybe a thousand at the most.

Counting that, is just a matter of minutes, and reporting the total count to a central administration is againt a matter of seconds by phone. Of course you then have to take all the ballots and you can recount them all many times you want, and a physical hand signed report from all the members at the school, but anyhow, it's just a matter of parallelizing properly.

Sure it's more difficult in a place like Brazil, but having a 90% count by the end of the day, seems really feasible to me. Maybe you can enlighten me if I made wrong suppositions, but I suspect there was something really bad done there in those days.

Re:Hmm... (2, Interesting)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106476)

Interesting. Sounds like you count at every polling place. Most countries don't do that. They gather the boxes up some smaller set of places (in the UK it's one per constituency) and count them all there. Obvious advantage -- much easier for parties and the press to scrutinise the count; obvious disadvantage -- it takes longer.

In the US they also have a curious attachment to having huge numbers of elections all at once and putting them all on the same piece of paper. I guess this probably is easier for the voters, at least in the sense of being less work, but it means that hand counting would be infernally complicated because the same ballot papers need to be counted in multiple different ways for everything from president of the USA to town dogcatcher.

Re:Hmm... (1)

sslayer (968948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106676)

Yeah, we do count every box, and there are always at least four people counting each box. One of them is designed by the local administration, and the other three are chosen randomly from the electorate itself.

If you're chosen, you are obliged to stay there during the day, and payed 50€ for the inconvenience. Of course, you aren't punished if you present some medical condition, are travelling or that kind of things.

Also, each party can send as many representatives as they want to each box or school, to verify nothing strange happens.

If you're interested and can read spanish, you should go read this link. It's from 2005 and discusses the electronic vote and compares it with our actual system. [escomposlinux.org]. I'm sorry is too long for me to translate it accurately

Re:Hmm... (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105290)

Sure - call me a troll, but it's also an observation. Time to market is more important than quality.

If I had mod points, I would have modded you down. In context of Linux, or any software which wants to give you a choice, you point is largely misplaced and wrong.

Personally, I'm tired of the overrated excuse - to shuffle half-baked software on users. "Time to market" is a great metric - if you also cut on features. (E.g. what Debian does by excluding from releases software which cannot be stabilized in timely manner.)

But no commercial company would *ever* do it - because software is sold (or rather it is purchased) based on feature list, not on stability. Stability and security are not features which you can market with a straight face. And that is only when "time to market" excuse is applicable.

From number of deals I had chance to observe, it never really mattered to end customer. (1) If company spend more time on development and testing (being late to market), generally it would also enjoy faster deployment times (and happy customers). (2) If company pushed on customer long feature list which wasn't even seen once working, then all the time/money saved on development and testing would be wasted during deployment phase - to tie all loose ends. And it might cost more, because during deployment one can't enjoy stability of environment generally found in test labs.

Now the problem with human nature, that companies which opt for plan (2) earn more money. People still buy software based on length of feature list and few can afford changing software at later date when it was found that it doesn't function as advertised.

And that is why it is not applicable to software like Linux. First of all, Linux (say Debian) magnitudes more stable and reliable than commercial software. (Because Debian has literally unlimited budget of person/years - commercial companies simply can't afford it.) Second, in the end you still get the choice: commercial software comes with lots of strings attach of how and what you can and cannot do, while with free software many pieces are standard-based and replaceable. Third, if you get to the level of national software, volumes are so high and budgets are so huge that it is not unacceptable idea anymore to actually hire or buy completely a dedicated F/LOSS company to handle the technical side of the project.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106058)

If you look at the market in general and don't focus on single products the perspective is different.

The number of products through history that haven't made it far outweighs the number of products that have survived.

And this isn't limited to applications, look at cars and a lot of other items.

Re:Hmm...Hmm... (1)

elkto (558121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105694)

Then again, with nothing to gain in a public competition/venue, the real hackers worth their salt are holding back.
It's worth more to them to crack the devices later, offering the ability to somebody who would pay them substantial sum of money to sway an election.
If you want to wear a tin foil hat, you might come to think the whole hacking competition was rigged for the benefit of the government...... Nah...

Either way you look at it, it makes the whole event suspect.

Re:Hmm... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105724)

Obviously this puts a lot of software produced in the US to shame.

This seems to imply that Diebold are *trying* to make secure voting machines.

Try again! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104984)

Actually, they ARE Diebold machines! When I turned 18 and voted for the first time I was really surprised to see that the voting machines here in Brazil have Diebold logos... and this was around the time when electronic voting was starting to make noise in the US due to insecure Diebold machines. However, I suspect that the Brazilian machines are actually designed by some national organization and only the manufacturing of all the thousands of machines is outsourced to Diebold.

Weve been voting with these machines for over 10 years, if Im not mistaken, and not a single major flaw has ever surfaced. Some small problems may have occurred without anyone noticing, but weve never had an election result deviate wildly from poll numbers, so it seems trustworthy to the extent that we can detect.

Goes to show that electronic voting machines or even Diebold are not the whole problem, you just need some transparency and supervision of the whole process... DEFINITELY not closed source!

Re:Try again! (4, Informative)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105056)

they were designed under the electoral court's orders by universities and private companies. after the design was ready, the manufacturing was outsorced to several comapnies, one of them was procomp, that later was purchased by diebold.

diebold doesn't own the designs or the copyright to the software. the electoral court does. so if diebold is thinking about selling similar machines in US, they'll have to pay our govt. royalties.

Re:Try again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30106264)

If the story is accurate, it'd be worth every penny to them. Certainly cheaper than designing their own machines from scratch, and with proven results.

Maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104478)

Maybe US hackers are better?
Nah, seriously, we should try to hack their machines here, even though I don't think we'll do much better.

Diebold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104484)

Sweet. They fixed it.

Oh, wait... Brazilian...

Anonymous Coward (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104492)

Of course not! There were a brazilian of 'em!

Everyone raise your hand... (2, Interesting)

Loopy (41728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104500)

...if you think the person who actually cracked it would admit it before cashing in.

Re:Everyone raise your hand... (1)

KamuZ (127113) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104556)

How would you have done it to be sure everything went OK?
No risk to sell the hack to a candidate or tamper data just for the kicks.

Sincerely, i can't think on any.

Doesn't change a thing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104512)

Failure to find a flaw does not prove absence of a flaw. Even if it did, I still need to trust the people handling the machines that the machines I'm voting on are the ones that were tested, because there is no way for me to verify that in an actual voting situation. A paper ballot vote is completely observable and does not require trust. Electronic voting is unnecessary and undemocratic.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (5, Insightful)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104792)

1. How do you know that "A paper ballot vote is completely observable and does not require trust"?

2. "Electronic voting is unnecessary and undemocratic." -- There are democratic political systems and undemocratic ones. There are no such thing as "democratic" or "undemocratic" technology. Technology is neutral; it depends on who is using it and how it is used.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104806)

D'oh, my last sentence was malformed. I wasn't really paying attention to what I was typing. I meant to say "Technology is neutral; its outcome depends on who is using it and how it is used." FTFM.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104970)

A paper ballot vote is designed to be observable. You can simply look at all the steps in the design and see that you can observe what's going on.

Electronic inherently relies on trust in an authority of some kind (e.g. the company which built the system, or a certification agency which vouches for the validity of the system). That is a fundamentally undemocratic property, therefore electronic voting is undemocratic.

Paper vote inspection is sampled (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105174)

You can simply look at all the steps in the design and see that you can observe what's going on.

How can you, personally, be sure that every vote in every ballot in the country was counted correctly? Paper votes are sensitive to "economic power" frauds. The party which can put more inspectors in the process is the one which controls the counting.

In Brazil there was a big affair in the 1982 Rio de Janeiro state governor elections, when the leftist candidate Brizola [wikipedia.org] denounced an attempt to subvert the vote counting, in what became known as the "Proconsult scandal" [google.com]. According to Brizola's party [pdt.org.br], this fraud attempt was performed with the collusion of the right-wing media organizations, which presented fake exit polls indicating a victory for the rightist candidate.

In any major election there are many people working together and one must inevitably trust a lot of people involved in the counting. No ordinary citizen has the resources to monitor an election by himself, the support of the party is needed.

In these days, any political party should have lots of people who know and understand computing technology. It's much easier and cheaper to let a trusted team of computer experts do a thorough audit on the software than to get a large team of scrutineers to watch every little detail where a paper ballot can be defrauded.
 

Re:Paper vote inspection is sampled (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105666)

It's much easier and cheaper to let a trusted team of computer experts do a thorough audit on the software than to get a large team of scrutineers to watch every little detail where a paper ballot can be defrauded.

/academic mode on

Actually this point could be pushed a step further.

The verification of the correctness of a computer can even be made automatic. At least in theory. We won't even need a team of human experts. Furthermore, once a particular model of machine pass the verification, it could be expected to work very reliably (so you have a very high chance of it still working properly as intended in the next three runs), not like humans who are unstable by nature.

/academic mode off

In real world, power corrupts. Election corruption has happened and will happen again. Instead of limiting the use of technology, why not limit the power instead? Electronic voting in its current form may be abused to better hide the criminals, which is sad. It is possible to be abused because too many things are being made secret. We need to remove this artificial secrecy.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105030)

1. I can stand next to the people counting the paper. Everyone with half a brain can do the same. Every single step along the line is easily verifyable with just primary school knowledge (reading and counting). Unlike checking the source, the binary and the hardware.

2. Technology is neutral but a process can be democratic or undemocratic. The voting process with paper is democratic because it is transparent to everyone. The voting process with machines is transparent only to a very small fraction of the people, this makes it undemocratic.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105390)

It requires even less knowledge to include bogus people in the voter list. And yet less knowledge to harass voting point staff into letting the voters for "insert corrupt party name" bring a few of their own pre-filled ballots from home. This can be done more complex with well-designed electronic system (as in, a disgruntled voting point attendant may allow a few protesters copy strong evidence that election were rigged). Not that I think anyone allowed testing that part of voting system design.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (3, Insightful)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104836)

> Failure to find a flaw does not prove absence of a flaw.

And failure to find an unicorn doesn't prove absence of a unicorn. I claim that there is no flaw. It is now your job to find the flaw and prove me wrong.

> A paper ballot vote is completely observable and does not require trust.

So you think that computers can't be trusted, because you don't trust people handling them, but you can trust paper, because you trust people handling them?

Re:Doesn't change a thing (3, Informative)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104974)

"I claim that there is no flaw. It is now your job to find the flaw and prove me wrong."

Not really. It is your job to prove to me that there is no flaw. It's the same thing with a paper ballot. You still have to prove to me that there is not a flaw in the paper ballot. Of course, I can look over the ballot in all of about 15 seconds and see that it's the correct ballot. It's far harder to find a race condition in a voting machine running proprietary software that causes miscounted votes.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105590)

It's far harder to find a race condition in a voting machine running proprietary software that causes miscounted votes.

That's why these voting machines run Linux and an OpenSource counting software.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (2, Informative)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106326)

Proving the absence of something is impossible, or close to it. No matter how hard he looks and says "it still seems to be flawless", you can ALWAYS claim that there is still the possibility of a hidden flaw.

It's always the job of the person claiming the existence of something to prove it, not the other way around. If you think there is a flaw, show us your proof, or at least your reasoning. If you can't, we wont have reason to believe you.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104960)

There is no way for you to verify that the paper ballot you are using is an actual legitimate ballot. I suppose you could call some city department and have them certify the ballot, but you could do the same thing for the voting machines. Electronic voting is not necessarily undemocratic. It's only undemocratic if it's being used in an undemocratic way. You could abuse paper ballots the exact same way you could abuse electronic machines.

The only real difference here is that no one has tried to sell the government paper ballots that don't count your votes, or lose your votes, or change your votes, or fail to leave a paper trail. Electronic machines done right are just as secure as paper ballots.

Re:Doesn't change a thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105002)

Electronic voting is necessary and more democratic for the many disabled people who cannot fill out a paper ballot on their own.

only where necessary (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105502)

Electronic balloting machines should be used only where necessary, for people who physically need help.

And they should simply print a bubble sheet like the ballots everyone else uses.

A ballot recorded only electronically is too hard to observe in a meaningful way.

Florida 2000 (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105046)

A paper ballot vote is completely observable and does not require trust

I beg to disagree. Apart from things like hanging chads and butterfly ballots [wikipedia.org], which can be corrected by proper voter instruction, paper ballots are subject from a large number of possible frauds, ranging from relatively unsophisticated methods like ballot stuffing to more advanced methods like ballots numbered with invisible ink.

Besides, as every corrupt politician knows, the best way is not to commit fraud at the ballot itself, but at the counting process. Unless there was only one vote for a candidate at one ballot, no one knows how the other people voted, and who will ensure the counting is done right?

Re:Florida 2000 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105130)

I see that your experience with the process is from an environment which has already abandoned the democratic system of using a pen to make a cross in front of the name of the candidate or party of your choice and putting the ballot in a ballot box that is under public supervision. That box is usually opened at the end of the day, also under public supervision, and the votes are counted (again, in public). An electronic voting system may be an improvement on the very flawed system that you associate with paper ballot voting, but it is a huge step back from a proper democratic election.

Re:Florida 2000 (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105416)

the democratic system of using a pen to make a cross in front of the name of the candidate or party of your choice

Don't you mean after [dccofc.org] the candidate's name?

That box is usually opened at the end of the day, also under public supervision, and the votes are counted (again, in public)

Yes, and being in public means no mistake is possible [wikipedia.org], right?

for what it is worth... (4, Interesting)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104550)

Cracking contests are warning sign number 9 on Bruce Schneier's list of security snake oil warnings. [schneier.com]

Warning Sign #9: Cracking contests.

I wrote about this at length last December: . For now, suffice it to say that cracking contests are no guarantee of security, and often mean that the designers don't understand what it means to show that a product is secure.

Re:for what it is worth... (4, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104658)

Yet I find the concept of actively encouraging people to hack your system, through for instance competitions, far more comforting than insisting that the only security is total secrecy. Particularly in the field of electronic voting systems.

Re:for what it is worth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105470)

Particularly in the field of electronic voting systems a cracking contest is snake oil.
That is because the real threat for voting system integrity is not hackers but corruption of people that are in some way in control over the voting systems.

Re:for what it is worth... (3, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105552)

Particularly in the field of electronic voting systems a cracking contest is snake oil. That is because the real threat for voting system integrity is not hackers but corruption of people that are in some way in control over the voting systems.

I will claim that open and verifiable oversight over any voting process is of the utmost importance. However I can not agree that that simply having a cracking contest is "snake oil"; unless it is presented as absolute proof that the entire process itself is incorruptible. The "corruption of people" is an potential threat in all voting systems regardless of method; electric, paper, mechanical, or what have you.

Re:for what it is worth... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106462)

Yes, inviting attempts to crack the systems, but trumpeting the fact that nobody publicized a successful crack isn't reassuring. Consider the rewards. Win cracking context: $MONEY. Manipulate election: $POWER + $BIG_MONEY.

Re:for what it is worth... (0, Flamebait)

Nathrael (1251426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104776)

And in addition - who knows, maybe they actually *did* find something and "just" don't want to disclose their findings, instead preferring to use the exploits themselves. Latin America is a rather less-than-stable political climate, after all.

Re:for what it is worth... (2, Informative)

BoppreH (1520463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105450)

Given the low prize, it's highly possible.

But Brazil does have a stable political climate. Lot's of claims of corruption, but everything have been on its tracks for so long that is boring.

Re:for what it is worth... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105610)

Latin America is a rather less-than-stable political climate, after all.

You shouldn't generalize. Florida [wikipedia.org] may be part of Latin America by now, but it's certainly not in Brazil.

Re:for what it is worth... (3, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104932)

I would also add that having an uncrackable machine from an exterior attacker says nothing about the ability of a government to tamper an election.

Re:for what it is worth... (2, Insightful)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105144)

except that if you read the arcticles, you'll see that it was more an auditing proccess done by several diferent professionals than an actual contest.

Re:for what it is worth... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105980)

Cracking contests are warning sign number 9 on Bruce Schneier's list of security snake oil warnings. [schneier.com]

Warning Sign #9: Cracking contests.

I wrote about this at length last December: . For now, suffice it to say that cracking contests are no guarantee of security, and often mean that the designers don't understand what it means to show that a product is secure.

It should be pointed out that Schneier was talking about ciphers, not voting machines, and he was talking about companies announcing cracking contests and using the announcement as an indication of security, in lieu of actually providing enough information to allow serious review of security.

It's the combination of secrecy and cracking contests that is the snake oil warning sign. The only way we can determine if something is secure is to have lots of smart, knowledgeable people with full access to the details try to break it. With crypto stuff, this is normally done by publishing at academic conferences and in academic journals and then encouraging other academics to give it a shot, but that's far from the only way to do it.

Nice idea (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104568)

Of course this doesn't really guarantee it's secure (nothing does) but it indicates they're taking security seriously. I am curious if they had full access to machines for a while before the competition, 3 days is a lot of time to try out a bunch of exploits you've worked out, but it's not a lot of time to try to find those exploits if it's the first time you've seen the system.

Re:Nice idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104698)

It indicates no such thing. The only thing it shows is that they understand public relations. It's a marketing effort.

Re:Nice idea (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104750)

It indicates no such thing. The only thing it shows is that they understand public relations. It's a marketing effort.

It's not a great indicator but it is an indicator.

There are a zillion things you can do to improve security, a hacking contest is one of them.

Now this is relying on the fact that the contest was done fairly, which I don't know. That's one of the reasons I questioned if they had access to all the available info before hand.

And voting machines aren't a typical software security situation. For software you can make the software available to anyone who wants a crack at it (har har!). But for voting machines the hardware is a critical component. It's expensive and hard to update remotely so it may not be available to all researchers. As well there are legitimate reasons to restrict the availability of machines to make it more difficult to set up fake voting stations.

For voting machines hacking contests may be the only way to give outside researchers a fair chance to break the machines.

Re:Nice idea (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104994)

There are a zillion things you can do to improve security, a hacking contest is one of them.

No, it's not. A hacking contest is nothing but a marketing instrument. It is meant to distract the public so that they shift their attention from the fundamental, inherent problems of electronic voting to mere problems of implementation. Apparently it's working.

Re:Nice idea (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106400)

Says you.

Assuming you aren't a hopeless caveman with a fear of computers, there is nothing inherently bad about electronic voting. Paper voting has been scammed plenty enough times, of course, so it's not like it's tampering with perfection; improving voting security should be a massive priority.

Assuming this is only the end stage of a long a concerted programme of looking at security, it is a perfectly reasonable (and reasonably effective) way or looking for flaws. If it is all they've done, then yes, it's probably snake oil.

Fuck ur frost piss (-1, Troll)

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What about changes in hardware? (1)

dredwerker (757816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104660)

Didnt some of the American ones have hardware that changed? Slightly but differed to the original spec. Then someone finds a buffer overflow etc.. Its a minefield but then again finance companies manage to have secure machines. You just have trusted people using them. As a pc support person I couldnt touch the two pcs that made millions of pounds in transfers it was the external company that supported them.
Also:
If you cant trust one person - have technical representatives at each pollling station from each party.
Or get two diff machines from diff companies and get people to hit two buttons on two machines.
Or have a paper backup.
Or all of the above.

What is the threat model? (2, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104726)

Is this exercise realistic given the need to protect against well hidden back doors, tampering by election officials, and sloppy procedures (like letting a vendor install uncertified patches just before an election)? They tested only a narrow range of dangers.

The right way to do something like this is at design time.

They deserve credit, though, for doing things so much better than the US.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104852)

Obviously we should make our voting machines out of Brazilians like they do, it seems to work well.

Wrong solution (1)

bwashed75 (1389301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104864)

Rather than focusing on the machine itself it is much more important to make sure that the results are verifiable. Here's my take:
1) Give the voter a randomly chosen voter number.
2) Reveal the vote for each voter number in some puclic channel. (Yes I mean print each and every one's vote in the newspaper)
3) Extend voter's obligations to include reading the newspaper the next day.
4) Have volunteers count the number of people entering each voting station.

If everyone is happy with his own entry in the newspaper and the volunteers are happy with the number of entries, then the election went well.

Re:Wrong solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104934)

2) Reveal the vote for each voter number in some puclic channel. (Yes I mean print each and every one's vote in the newspaper)

That's how we did it for some votes in FidoNet decades ago. Everyone provided a "password" with their vote, and the result was published with all the passwords. Everyone could check if the own vote was counted correctly.

It wouldn't matter if the machine was hackable. Un-hackable doesn't exist, only verifyable (by simplicity or design).

Re:Wrong solution (2, Insightful)

KClaisse (1038258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105040)

How could you then verify a person's claim that their vote was changed? How do you prove that they aren't just changing their own mind at the last minute? I mean if every single vote in a voting machine was changed then you could very easily say that there was some tampering involved, but say a person tampered with many many systems across many states. And then say this person tampered with only a small percentage of votes on each machine and only to a randomly selected group of people (no connections to each other, random number of people). Then it wouldn't be apparent that there was any tampering involved, just a few people who wanted to change their vote after the fact. Just my thoughts....

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105252)

And then how do you verify the million or so people that misread the paper or just want to cause shit and claim their vote was not counted properly? Not trying to rail on your idea, but this does present one hell of a practical problem that needs to be taken into account.

Josh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104950)

FYI- Real hackers do not attend public events such as this.

What incentive is there? (3, Funny)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30104956)

If there was a strong incentive or motive, that might have made a big difference. If all you get from success in cracking is the recognition, that won't bring in all the possible methods. OTOH, if there was a genuine and significant prize, like actually taking leadership of the country, or a billion dollars, you might find the machines can be cracked.

uh, 4 days.... useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30104966)

Besides anyone who plans on hacking these machines would definitely not attend an event such as this.

What does this prove? (1)

KClaisse (1038258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105000)

Just because a few people didn't find a flaw in the time the spent there doesn't mean there isn't one. If someone found a hack, someone who actually wanted to exploit it, do you actually think they would divulge that kind of information? I would keep my mouth shut and let them think it was secure. Then it would make it even easier when the time came to mess with election results.

Re:What does this prove? (1)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105052)

It's always possible. But then again just like people think traditional voting system is secure. Very specialized software that run on top of special hardware, as I suppose this voting machines do, are similar to airplanes navigation systems or even engines of cars. What I mean is, they can be much more closely controlled than people. Call me a misanthrope(or a engineer :p) but I trust machines I understand better than people with good references to get things done the way I expect.

Only three days? (1)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105004)

It usually takes more than three days to hack anything which flaws aren't by any means evident. It sure shows the voting machines are quite secure, but does that really show that they are "unhackable"?

Why not open source it? And the human flaws? (1)

etinin (1144011) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105112)

I still have serious concerns about the current voting system. Heck, last time I heard, the version which had its source inspected by the Supreme Court wasn't necessarily the final version. If they don't really know what's in there, who does? How hard would it be to bribe someone in the company. And, worse than technological flaws, are always the human flaws. Cases of people who work at the polling stations (they do unpaid compulsory work) voting for people who didn't vote are not unheard of. Besides, the statistical samples taken to avoid frauds are VERY, VERY weak.

Re:Why not open source it? And the human flaws? (2, Informative)

agoliveira (188870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105386)

The source *is* open. Anyone from any political party or organized entity can request and have access to all source and follow all the procedures. The final binaries are signed by all interested parties as well and the system can be audited at any time. I know no system is fail proof but I believe they covered as much as they can and honestly, the paper system is also week to social pressures and bribing as well. That's the week link: people, not technology.

The successful atempt wasn't about the system (2, Informative)

joaobranco (55662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105136)

According to the newspapers, the successful attempt was on the carrying bag for the media (which I assume carries the data required). It seems lack of physical security still can happen, but the media is supposedly cryptographically signed, so replacing it would be hard in any case.

Wrong way to look at it. (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105202)

It's funny that they'd crow about the fact that "hackers" couldn't break their security in three days. Hacking a voting machine isn't a timed athletic contest. It might take 4 days, or a week, or a year, but once it happens, the damage from a hacked election could be catastrophic for a nation.

The problem with voting machines is that somebody has to make them, usually a private company. Private companies are after profit. Profit + elections can be a disastrous combination. The effects of private money have turned the US political system into a bad joke.

The way to secure and fair elections is not through any proprietary technology, that's for sure.

Formal proof (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105254)

I wonder, with all the universities around, and those news about a 'formally proven' OS kernel, if a team of researchers couldn't attempt to formally prove a modular voting software system (maybe using the OS kernel that's already proven)?

Sure, it may be troublesome, but with government funding, it's a work that can be done, and independently verified by anyone that knows how to read such proofs.

actually is closed source software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30105284)

the software is actually is closed source software according to wikipedia.

Not the real hackers (1)

michelcultivo (524114) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105396)

Before you do the attempt you have to explain what you're planning to do, and the procedures have to stay with the TSE. The real hackers don't get their hands on that voting machine, only the security companys and universities can do the tests.

Ridiculous prize (4, Funny)

BoppreH (1520463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105404)

It's important to note that the prize for the winner is of just R$ 5.000, a little under $ 3.000. This certainly scared most experts away.

On a side note, you guys have just slashdotted our fucking Superior Election Court website. I hope you are happy.

Misleading headline (2, Funny)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105530)

More accurate: "Successful Brazilian voting machine hackers stay quiet, wait for election day."

Proves nothing (1)

dskoll (99328) | more than 4 years ago | (#30105850)

While cracking the machines would prove that they are insecure, failing to crack them proves nothing. It only proves that one group of people at a particular time couldn't crack them.

obligatory... (2, Funny)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 4 years ago | (#30106028)

Hackers Fail To Crack Brazilian Voting Machines

Give them time, a brazilian is a lot of machines!
Ba-doom-boom-tss.

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