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Bug In DOS-Based Voting Machines Disrupts Belgian Election

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the slowing-things-down dept.

Security 193

jfruh (300774) writes "In 20 cantons in Belgium's Flanders region, voting machines are x86 PCs from the DOS era, with two serial ports, a parallel port, a paltry 1 megabyte of RAM and a 3.5-inch disk drive used to load the voting software from a bootable DOS disk. A software bug in those machines is slowing the release of the results from yesterday's election, in which voters chose members of the regional, national, and European parliaments. The remaining voting machines, which are Linux-based, are unaffected, as were voters in the French-speaking Wallonia region of the country, most of whom use paper ballots."

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They almost made it, too (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094127)

They were just about to upgrade to Windows XP for the next election.

On The Plus Side... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094133)

Who'd want to hack this sack of shit? Nobody. Old is gold.

Re:On The Plus Side... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094161)

NSA intern to his boss: "But Sir... we weren't taught Basic or Cobol at uni."

C:\DOS (1, Funny)

barlevg (2111272) | about 5 months ago | (#47094141)

c:\dos

c:\dos\run

run\dos\get convicted for election fraud

It's a software bug, hardware unrelated (4, Insightful)

mechtech256 (2617089) | about 5 months ago | (#47094177)

A graphing calculator would probable have adequate power to handle taking votes. If the DOS machines are meeting the specifications required for Flanders elections, there's not much of a reason to upgrade them.

I guess I'm just not seeing the story here. Linux wouldn't stop a software bug either. I guess the only hassle here is that they might have to dig out the parallel cables to patch the machines.

Re:It's a software bug, hardware unrelated (4, Funny)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | about 5 months ago | (#47094217)

I guess their next 'logical' step is to upgrade to Windows XP


and then use the same software in the DOSBox emulator

and then complain on the DOSBox forum that it doesn't work, among the sea of other overentitled 'IT pros' that demand a gaming emulator to fit critical application usage
*facepalm*

Re:It's a software bug, hardware unrelated (3, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 5 months ago | (#47095007)

If the DOS machines are meeting the specifications required for Flanders elections, there's not much of a reason to upgrade them.

do I have to say it?

alright then:

"stupid flanders!"

Re:It's a software bug, hardware unrelated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47095519)

even a graphing calculator is overkill. an hp48gx can run a preemptive multitasking operating system.

Paltry (5, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 5 months ago | (#47094185)

The problem wasn't on the voting machines with the "paltry" amount of memory:

After the elections are over the results are loaded on a 3.5-inch floppy disk and shipped to the canton headquarters where the disks are fed into another computer that adds up the votes before sending the results to the ministry. It was there that the problem occurred, the spokesman said, adding that the votes that ended up on the disks were correct.

There is nothing wrong with a simple dedicated system that is based on proven hardware. Most of the computers in use today have even less than 1MiB at their disposal. It is a fallacy of thought that you have to have an extensive operating system with virtual memory and other elaborate support systems to accomplish a simple task.

Re:Paltry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094225)

precisely.

less code, less potential problems. kiss.

Re:Paltry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094281)

Or, even better: No code, and a system that everybody who votes can easily understand and that is utterly fraud-proof.

There is literally no reason to use complicated, impossible to trust devices for a job that people solve way better and quickly enough.

Re:Paltry (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#47094541)

Fraud proof? What system is that?

Do I have to provide links to all the election workers that find paper ballots in their trunk right after they know just how many votes they need? Cite LBJ?

Re:Paltry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094769)

Can't happen if the election workers are watched by other people from all parties at all times, as they are in every good system.

You _can_ do paper ballots wrong, if you try, but if you do paper ballots right, they _are_ fraud proof - if anybody tried to cheat, you would know right away. With computers, you will never know if the computer lied, unless you use cryptographic systems so complex hardly anybody understands them - which makes these systems worthless in a general election.

Re:Paltry (3, Insightful)

fgouget (925644) | about 5 months ago | (#47095003)

Do I have to provide links to all the election workers that find paper ballots in their trunk right after they know just how many votes they need? Cite LBJ?

Sure, one can make a paper based voting system that can be hacked. The easiest way is to require that all ballots be moved around to a central location before they are counted. That provides plenty enough of opportunities for fraud during transport. To maximize fraud-opportunities, cost and slowness you can even claim you cannot start counting the ballots until the next day so all the ballot boxes have time to arrive and so you don't have to pay the people you hired extra for night work.

Or you can pick volunteers among the voters to count the ballots as soon as the election closes, right in the polling station. With tables of four volunteers working together and checking each other's work (in addition to the usual party representatives), you get the results within 2 hours and have a really fraud-proof system. It also scales nicely with both the number of polling stations and the population, and needs only 1% to volunteer.

Re:Paltry (4, Informative)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 5 months ago | (#47095257)

South Africa just did it that way and it works well. First you count the total ballots, still folded, then you count the votes and that way nobody can add other ballots in during the vote tally to make up numbers. No cellphones etc allowed in the hands of the counters, elections officials or party observers during the count.

Got one addition to the process that we don't do. No results should be released from a polling station until every single station has finished counting and certified within the station. Forget this running TV tally and all that crap, if the numbers in each station remain secret until all stations are ready to report, then you can reduce the risk of "finding" additional votes in the trunk of a car.

Re:Paltry (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47094237)

Hell, an x86 computer with 1MiB of RAM and a 3.5-inch floppy drive is totally overkill.

A simple ATmega328P would be more than enough for this simple task.

Re:Paltry (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 5 months ago | (#47094397)

This is the kind of project you could do in a weekend on a Raspberry Pi. Off-the-shelf , disposable hardware; demonstrably provable software.

Re:Paltry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094805)

Demonstrable to whom? What if I don't trust the people who did the verification? What if the hardware was modified - how would you verify that each single piece of hardware that is used does what it is supposed to? What if the system was modified by somebody right before the election? What if it was modified during the election, in the booth? And why should anybody who has no idea about computers and software verification trust that the people who did the verification aren't lying to them?

Elections are a solved problem. Paper ballots are how you do elections. There is no use in introducing additional complexity in the form of computers to something where failure is absolutely not acceptable.

Re:Paltry (3, Insightful)

fgouget (925644) | about 5 months ago | (#47095083)

This is the kind of project you could do in a weekend on a Raspberry Pi. Off-the-shelf , disposable hardware; demonstrably provable software.

A voter will never be allowed to verify that the software actually running on the voting computer is your 'demonstrably provable software' software. If he were allowed to do so, not only would it cause a huge backup in the line, but it would also require completely compromising the security of the system. Then that voter would also have to check that the hardware is really an unmodified Raspberry Pi board rather than one that was 'upgraded' by the NSA (or someone else).

Open-source (or provable software) and open-hardware change strictly nothing to the electronic voting opacity.

Re:Paltry (1)

makapuf (412290) | about 5 months ago | (#47095197)

You'd use a Mega for this ? An attiny25 should be enough !

Re:Paltry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094239)

"There is nothing wrong with a simple dedicated system that is based on proven hardware." - This!

This is the absolutely BEST way to design a system like this. We have systems like this (nuclear) that has been running since 1993 without a single software failure. If it absolutely 100% positively MUST work? Go for KISS!

Re:Paltry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094305)

This.

Boot DOS off USB, write to USB? Would need a hardware refresh though.

Re:Paltry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094241)

Well, I wouldn't trust 3.5" floppies with important data, although the rest of it might be fine hardware-wise. 3.5" is sorta like proven-bad, not proven-good.

Re:Paltry (1)

v1 (525388) | about 5 months ago | (#47094263)

It is a fallacy of thought that you have to have an extensive operating system with virtual memory and other elaborate support systems to accomplish a simple task.

My work with the Arduino can produce surprisingly complex operations in under 32kb. (for the program, the runtime, AND the variable ram)

Re:Paltry (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 5 months ago | (#47094373)

There is nothing wrong with a simple dedicated system that is based on proven hardware.

There are however problems when your 'simple dedicated system' is based on hardware that is now so obsolete that it's no longer manufactured; meaning that any hardware failures means that you're having to source unproven used hardware in increasingly limited quantities, or go to shady 3rd party manufacturers that don't have the quality control of the original.

Re:Paltry (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | about 5 months ago | (#47094575)

There are however problems when your 'simple dedicated system' is based on hardware that is now so obsolete that it's no longer manufactured; meaning that any hardware failures means that you're having to source unproven used hardware in increasingly limited quantities, or go to shady 3rd party manufacturers that don't have the quality control of the original.

I think the words you're looking for there are “decreasing limited quantities.”

Re:Paltry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094695)

No, retard, those are not the words he's looking for. Limitations can increase, you moronic fuckstick. Calculator-fucking pieces of shit like you shouldn't be allowed to speak to real humans. Fucking kill yourself.

Re:Paltry (2)

gmhowell (26755) | about 5 months ago | (#47095365)

Don't you have some more roommates and sorority sisters to kill?

I stand by my engrish... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 5 months ago | (#47095059)

I stand by my words in this case. 'Increasingly' is modifying 'limited' in this case, indicating an increase in the limits of the quantities.

Not only are there fewer devices available, of unknown providence, but at some point you start having to go through rather crazy acrobatics to get them. I've heard of NASA going to garage sales hoping to get some older computer parts, for example.

After a certain point it makes sense to upgrade the system just to restore availability because otherwise the option is to engage the services of small quantity manufacturers. With them, a floppy drive running into the tens of thousands wouldn't be out of line. Not because they'd be ripping you off, but because that's what it costs to make a floppy drive if the quantities produced are too low.

I've noticed that floppy drives just don't work as well as they used to. Either the disks aren't built up to snuff or the drives aren't, I don't really know. The failure rate is such that I don't trust them.

Re:Paltry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094461)

The problem is Belgians. They're the most retarded cunts in all of Christendom.

Re:Paltry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094949)

Are you Dutch?
Cause they always be whining about belgians...

Re:Paltry (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 5 months ago | (#47094475)

I enjoyed DOS and in particular IBM PC DOS. And we could do a lot with it. Even if we went back to the 386 era I'll bet that there could still be lots of software improvements that were never exploited.

Re:Paltry (1)

JohnnyBGod (1088549) | about 5 months ago | (#47094479)

3.5" floppy disks are proven... to be horribly unreliable.

Re:Paltry (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 5 months ago | (#47095423)

3.5" floppy disks are proven... to be horribly unreliable.... Over the course of several years.

However, for one night, I think they will do just fine.

overly complicated (2)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 5 months ago | (#47094207)

A simple microcontroller could have done the job, so why introduce unnecessary complications and attack vectors by using DOS or Linux ?

Re:overly complicated (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47094423)

Because writing the 3.5" floppy driver would suck.

Re:overly complicated (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 5 months ago | (#47094621)

That's why you'd use a USB stick instead. Seriously, who ever thought that a 3.5" floppy disk would be a good way to transfer data ? I haven't seen a floppy drive on a computer for at least a decade.

Re:overly complicated (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47094711)

A USB driver is a lot more complex than a 3.5" floppy disk driver.

PCMCIA/CF is pretty simple. If I was doing custom hardware, I would use that. Off the shelf cards. Simple bus operations. Many microcontrollers can drive the bus directly.

DOS is still a reasonable choice. It works, isn't complex and there's lots of off the shelf hardware that runs it.

Re:overly complicated (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 5 months ago | (#47094907)

SD cards are actually even easier since you can talk to them over SPI. You can get a fifty cent microcontroller to read and write from those with no problem. The annoying thing is that those microcontrollers use a Harvard architecture. Instruction and data code use entirely different memory. So you can read and write to an SD card, you just can't run code off it.

Re:overly complicated (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47095081)

> So you can read and write to an SD card, you just can't run code off it.

That seems like a good thing for a voting machine.

Re:overly complicated (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 5 months ago | (#47095199)

> So you can read and write to an SD card, you just can't run code off it.

That seems like a good thing for a voting machine.

Good for voting machines, bad for anyone who doesn't need any fancy features but needs more than 4k Bytes of code. Since that's your entire program space with those small microcontrollers. You find weird bugs and limitations in many of those since they have to use a stripped down libc. When you hit that code cap most of the time your only option is to redesign the entire board or start using hacks to cut down on code size. The Arduino might have popularized them, but microcontrollers are still a game where you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars up front just to save ten cents per unit.

Also, since it's much more of a pain to update code don't expect things to be patched unless they're critical. Even then it would be really expensive. Worse, since these things still use a stack you can still get them via Return Oriented Programming.

Re:overly complicated (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47095245)

Where did 4K of code come from?

I would expect to use a micro that can address enough memory for the job to be done right.
Who mentioned Arduinos? It wasn't me.

Re:overly complicated (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 5 months ago | (#47095319)

Where did 4K of code come from?

I would expect to use a micro that can address enough memory for the job to be done right.
Who mentioned Arduinos? It wasn't me.

I was just talking in general. When someone says "simple microcontroller" I think of an ATMicro/Mega or something like the MSP430 most of which cap out somewhere between 2 and 16k. Anything more than that is a full ARM soc and normally is expensive and has finicky power and i/o requirements compared to the "simple microcontrollers" I normally work with. They're the lap of luxury since, like I said, you normally spend large amounts of time to make the code work with the 4k device instead of the 16k just to save a few cents per unit.

Re:overly complicated (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 5 months ago | (#47095347)

4K? Huh?

The Atmel megaAVR series ranges from 4Kb to 256Kb code space. The Arduino Uno boards have been running the 32Kb chip since rev 1.

Re:overly complicated (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 5 months ago | (#47095431)

Like I said, cost is king.

Heck, I've been trying to redesign something to use the ATTiny and bitbang USB. Thinking about it, that's where the 4k number came from. Boards with more memory and more features are getting cheaper and that's awesome. I can't wait for when integrated USB becomes as common as integrated SPI and TTL.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to get out of my cave and yell at some kids on my lawn.

Re:overly complicated (1)

makapuf (412290) | about 5 months ago | (#47095215)

Yes, and if the fuses allow that you could even program the flash with it ( boot loaders are allowed in Harvard arch)

Re:overly complicated (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 months ago | (#47094735)

Writing a floppy driver is by far one of the easiest hardware drivers to write

Re:overly complicated (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 5 months ago | (#47094871)

Writing a floppy driver is by far one of the easiest hardware drivers to write

Using an existing, tested, and documented library so you can concentrate on the actual problem you're trying solve is even easier.

Re:overly complicated (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47094911)

I think the legitimate issue with floppy disks is the reliability of the medium and the long term availability of replacements.

Writing a floppy driver for hardware that has a floppy disk controller chip is easy. Writing one that has to bit bang the interface is anything but simple.

Obligatory (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47094209)

Stupid Flanders.

Paper trail (5, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47094223)

In Canada, we use paper voting and we usually know the results of national elections within 24 hours.

Why mess with electronic voting?

Re:Paper trail (3, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about 5 months ago | (#47094247)

Why mess with electronic voting?

SHINY! OOH OOH SHINY! That's why ;-)

electronic voting is easier to rig. (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#47094277)

electronic voting is easier to rig.

With paper you have to stuff the ballot box

Re:electronic voting is easier to rig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094401)

Nah. Paper votes were the ones used in Minnesota to throw the vote for Al Franken [wikipedia.org] . He never would have made it with secure electronic voting.

Re:electronic voting is easier to rig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094909)

> He never would have made it with secure electronic voting.

Anyone implemented that anywhere yet?

Re:Paper trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094283)

In Canada we have Pierre Poutine to mess with the voters.

Re:Paper trail (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 months ago | (#47094291)

Also worth pointing out that the votes are counted so fast, that they had to enact a law so that the results from the east coast weren't reported before the polls on the west coast had closed to prevent the results from influencing voters on the other side of the country. These laws were often ignored (not by the big media companies), and were hard to enforce, and I think they've been eliminated because of this, but the idea made sense.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47094581)

How are they hard to enforce? You just tell your equivalent of what we in the mother country call "the returning officer" to not announce them until the right time.

Now that won't do anything about speculation, but that's not the same as getting the actual results. Indeed it's frequently far from it [research-live.com]

Re:Paper trail (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 5 months ago | (#47094375)

> Why mess with electronic voting?

Because it's much less heavy lifting to stuff the ballot box.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094437)

In the US we know the results 24 hours AHEAD of the elections, regardless of voting system used.

Re:Paper trail (4, Insightful)

cpghost (719344) | about 5 months ago | (#47094443)

24 hours is quite a long time actually. In Germany, we use paper voting too, and the (final) results are usually available within 2-3 hours, 4 hours at most.

Re:Paper trail (2)

Zeromous (668365) | about 5 months ago | (#47094495)

Does Germany have 5 timezones?

Re:Paper trail (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094739)

Continental UE has 3 timezones and results of the European elections were known the same evening. Actually, in some EU countries voting ends at 19 pm and first official (partial) results are ready to go on TV at 20pm. For European elections Italy votes until 10pm or something like that, first official results (for the whole EU) were delayed until after Italy finished voting. Citizens from overseas territories under EU jurisdiction voted few days before to avoid delays due to their timezone.

Re:Paper trail (-1, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47095179)

20pm? Moron.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Zeromous (668365) | about 5 months ago | (#47095225)

Canada voting stops at 9pm in the last timezone. Zones span 4 hours. So the last vote is presumably cast at 1am Atlantic time.

Results are usually reported the next morning so it really isn't that bad.

Re:Paper trail (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47094631)

Yes, but that's Germany. If anyone is a) good at paperwork and b) extremely efficient it's Johnny Hun.

Belgians, on the other hand, are mostly blithering imbecilic fucktards who get away with it because they camouflage the fact that they don't have a clue what they're talking about by being able to do it in several languages.

Re:Paper trail (1)

cpghost (719344) | about 5 months ago | (#47094463)

Why mess with electronic voting?

So that the NSA gets to see the results before the Canadians themselves?

Re:Paper trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094513)

Electronic voting pros :
- Fast counting of votes
- Ecologic (That is if you dont throw the computers away after every voting like it has been done)
- Papers, less papers ..
- you can't possibly make a mistake (or draw a penis on the middle of the paper) which would invalidate the voting
Electronic voting cons :
- Four times more expensive to setup according to the belgian federal govt
- Shit happens !

Some of the ideas laying around here in belgium

Re:Paper trail (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 5 months ago | (#47094601)

In the elections I vote in, we have a paper ballot. We then put that ballot through a machine, which either accepts it or rejects it as invalid.

We have the advantages of a paper trail, and the advantages of extremely quick counting.

Re:Paper trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094863)

> rejects it as invalid.

That's horrible. So if the version of Republicans you have in your country don't agree with your vote, they just refuse to count it? That's as bad as the mail by voting we have here in Seattle. The rulers here throw away votes and there's no way to fight the system. They can lie and claim you didn't fill-out the bubbles correctly or lie and claim you didn't sign the ballot. That is why in my neighborhood more than 15% of the votes were for Rmoney in the last election despite the fact that there aren't that many idiots here. The Republicans that rule here threw away a lot of Democrat votes in order to boost Rmoney's votes. That makes us look like complete morons by having nearly 1 out of 5 people being complete fucking drooling racist idiots.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47095373)

Generally speaking, if your ballot gets rejected you can fix it or fill out a new one - at least that's my understanding of the process. My home town did something similar, and you feed your ballot through the scanner yourself as your last step before leaving the polling place, so you know immediately whether there were any problems.

Re:Paper trail (1)

fgouget (925644) | about 5 months ago | (#47095137)

In the elections I vote in, we have a paper ballot. We then put that ballot through a machine, which either accepts it or rejects it as invalid.

We have the advantages of a paper trail, and the advantages of extremely quick counting.

As long as there is no systematic immediate manual recount in the polling place you have none of the advantages of paper. All you have is a system that can be hacked electronically, and hacked on the paper side while the ballots are being moved around or in storage waiting for a possible recount. Attackers get their choice of method so in the end this is twice as insecure.

Re:Paper trail (3, Insightful)

Rumagent (86695) | about 5 months ago | (#47094559)

No good reason. Except perhaps that a perfectly implemented system (if such a thing is possible, so far none has been devised) would be faster.

Apart from that, the paper version is:

Cheap,
Reliable,
Repeatable
Extremely hard to rig on a large scale,
Well tested
Durable,

And most important of all: Easy to understand and audit by a layperson.

Many slashdot readers are well versed in CS and we do not trust these systems. How then can we expect the public to have any faith in these systems?

If the many CS guys out there really want to help, they should think out algorithms for sorting that are efficient, precise and can be done by humans - preferably with some error correction built in. It will not make anyone rich, but it may just keep a bit of faith in elections

Re:Paper trail (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47094599)

How about inserting voting results into the bitcoin blockchain? Some transactions come with comments built-in (ex: "CoinAd.com Payment").

If you can trust the data going into it (vote counts as bitcoin blockchain public comments), I don't know anything else that would be harder to rig right now.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Rumagent (86695) | about 5 months ago | (#47094691)

I do not know:) Perhaps, if you somehow could create a trusted and platform to run it on, educate the voters enough to both verify their vote and the election process itself (the blockchain and the platform). None of which is trivial, but I guess it is not impossible

The point remains however: What have you gained apart introducing a lot of complexity?

Re:Paper trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094833)

Incredibly hard to understand for a layperson (the foundation of your democratic government should not depend on anything the average person cannot understand), not easy to make secret (elections need to be secret, that is a core requirement you are not allowed to drop), and suddenly people can ddos your election? Yeah, no.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Buzer (809214) | about 5 months ago | (#47095121)

Many slashdot readers are well versed in CS and we do not trust these systems. How then can we expect the public to have any faith in these systems?

Like that matters. We don't trust most of the things, but public is perfectly happy with them (until shit hits the fan). Convenience tends to triumph security.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47095259)

Many slashdot readers are well versed in CS and we do not trust these systems. How then can we expect the public to have any faith in these systems?

Unless you inherited or bought that UID you must remember the Y2K thing. I personally fixed bugs that would have caused havoc with a major company's billing and emergency repair systems.

Yet a surprising number of the public think the whole thing was a con because nothing actually blew up or fell out of the sky.

In short, your assumption that distrust is a monotonically increasing function of knowledge is utter fucking bollocks.

Shorter still, ignorance is bliss.

Re:Paper trail (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 months ago | (#47094655)

Well, this was about electronic aggregation. As far as I know most quick paper elections use a bar/QR code, electronic counting/sorting and the preliminary sums are sent in electronically. The official results (hand counted, disputed votes, signed election protocol etc. are typically not available until a while later but the number of votes is usually too small to matter much. Occasionally two candidates are really really close though, I know in our last parliament election one was in and out until the very last votes were counted.

Re:Paper trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47095255)

Because it's hackable...

Poodle Slaughterhouse! (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47094257)

>The fault appeared in the system despite the fact that the application was especially developed for these elections, was "tested thousands of times" and was certified by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, he said.

There's your problem

Incorrect story (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094329)

While it is true that most of Wallonia votes with paper, all the places using e-vote in Wallonia and in Brussel are "affected" by the bug as well.

"affected" with marks, as the actual problem happened with the software in charge of centralizing all the votes coming from these places. So the e-vote process had no actual problem, it's the counting afterwards that crashed.

source: I live in Belgium, it's been all over the news here. I'll also add that I heard exactly zero reports about the same problem occuring in Flanders, but I might have overlooked some reports.

disclaimer: I strongly oppose e-vote.

Re:Incorrect story (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 months ago | (#47095311)

So do I, I've seen nothing about it.

All I heard was that the VB got a lot of votes. Makes you wonder if the bug caused that, or that caused the "bug"...

I don't agree with them, but I agree with banning them (as that cretin Verhofstadt tried to do) even less.

Muslims worship a faggot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094357)

Sucking dicks for Allah. Molesting children in the name of Mohammad.
 
The religion of a faggot piece of ass.

Apu, if it'll make you feel any better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094419)

...I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead!

Operating System (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094465)

Okay, so is this an OS issue? Or software issue. Leave it to Slashdot to try to make it sound like Linux is superior to DOS.

Re:Operating System (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 5 months ago | (#47094613)

Had they used FreeDOS, the bug would have been more visible. And easier to debug than even Linux, since DOS has far fewer lines of code, so only the voting software would have needed to be reviewed.

Re:Operating System (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47095031)

first thing freedos does it load most of a linux kernel, consuming shitpiles of ram

Re:Operating System (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 5 months ago | (#47095177)

Citation please. This is the first I've heard of such a thing.

Re:Operating System (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 5 months ago | (#47095433)

FreeDOS doesn't have any capabilities that DOS doesn't have. It's 16-bit, has the 640kB limit and so on - just like DOS. No Linux involved, even though it is GPLed

Re:Operating System (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47095449)

Better than that even - it sounds like the problem had *nothing* to do with the voting computers or software at all. Instead it was a problem with the tallying computers vote-aggregation center. Why they mentioned the voting machines at all, much less their OS, is a mystery.

You guessed it: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094485)

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

The problem is with understanding computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094597)

There is a simple and totally invariable equation: the less one knows about computer security. the more likely one is to believe that computer voting is possible without fraud.

Like many formulas, the reverse is true also.

Democracy: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47094661)

Abort, Retry, Fail?_

a number af factual errors in the original article (5, Informative)

joris.w (1003616) | about 5 months ago | (#47094671)

for a more accurate account of the facts, you could read http://datanews.knack.be/ict/n... [knack.be] (in dutch)
the vote counting problem in Flanders was related to manual procedures in the Ghent area
the DOS based e-voting system is used in Brussels, not Flanders
as stated already in other comments: the DOS based systems did not fail, it was the central vote collecting system that failed
lesson learned: If you want accurate reports, go to the source and don't rely on second hand reports

Dos, Memory? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47094677)

a paltry 1 megabyte of RAM...

640 votes ought to be enough for anyone. -B. Gates

Computers are not the solution for elections (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#47094707)

Especially when you do not have a problem. If anything, computers are a liability for elections. For many reasons.

First, the obvious one that was showcased in this issue: KISS is the principle to follow with elections. The more complicated it gets, the more places something can go wrong. Moreover, the more places someone can try to manipulate without anyone having a chance to detect it. I'll get to that in a bit. But the bug in the software shows quite well what's wrong with this idea: It's complicated. Paper and pencil is a technology ANYONE can use and understand. It's time tested and foolproof. There is exactly NOTHING that could go wrong with making a cross somewhere on a sheet of paper and tossing that into a box. It's a simple, mechanical way of voting that simply can not fail, from a "technical" point of view. Yes, it's more complicated to count, but that's all that makes it less attractive.

And yes, a paper ballot can be manipulated. But it is WAY harder to detect manipulations with computer voting systems. With a paper ballot, provided your system allows it (which it should), anyone who wants to check whether there has been some foul play can do so. Any party that thinks there might be some sort of election fraud can send observers to any of the polling stations and ensure that people can (actually must!) vote in secrecy and that the ballot is not only sealed and tamper free until counting but also that any kind of transport happens in a secure way. Simply accompany that ballot box. You don't need any kind of specially trained personnel to do that. What the observer needs is fairly good vision (may be corrected) and a more or less functioning brain.

To test a voting machine against tampering or election fraud, at the very least you need a pretty good security auditor. And then you also need to trust that guy. I guess I'm not the only one who could see some populist party crying foul play should people start to realize that they're selling snakeoil and pretend that those voting machines are rigged. And then try to disprove that in such a way that the population, who knows jack about computers, believes you.

In a nutshell, voting machines are dangerous to the faith people have in democracy and elections.

The Robinson Method gets rid of all this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094767)

http://www.paul-robinson.us/index.php/2008/10/25/the_robinson_method_a_really_simple_way_?blog=5

Why is nobody advocating this method? It's a LOT more trustworthy than paper ballots, or electronic voting.

software quality assurance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094927)

did anyone test the software that ran on the Disk Operating System? I'm assuming that the source code for the DOS program and Linux program are different. Yes, I know that most compilers are supposed to compile the source code into the appropriate code for the operating except for Java which runs bytecode.

Paltry megabyte (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47094985)

Hey, kid. Nothing paltry about a megabyte, when 640k is all ya gonna need.
I remember the excitement to of putting a meg into a pc. Master of the universe...

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