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California Testers Find Flaws In Voting Machines

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the your-vote-can-count-many-times dept.

Security 167

quanticle writes "According to Ars Technica, California testers have discovered severe flaws in the ES&S voting machines. The paper seals were easily bypassed, and the lock could be picked with a "common office implement". After cracking the physical security of the device, the testers found it simple to reconfigure the BIOS to boot off external media. After booting a version of Linux, they found that critical system files were stored in plain text. They also found that the election management system that initializes the voting machines used unencrypted protocols to transmit the initialization data to the voting machines, allowing for a man-in-the-middle attack. Altogether, it is a troubling report for a company already in hot water for selling uncertified equipment to counties."

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heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595775)

I guess they do run linux after all.

Re:heh (0, Offtopic)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595807)

Man, as first posts go, I'd rather have that just said "First Post!".

If it's that easy to break into, I guess the machines used some form of snake-oil and build it's security on the assumption of obscurity. Bad choice any day.

I haven't seen which OS they use.

WhiteHat Voting (5, Insightful)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595777)

I have 2 solutions to all these problems.

1: Do like the rest of the world, and use a HB #2 pencil.

2: EFF and the rest of the American White hats get together and develop an Open Voting system, that are freely implementable by any state, that can withstand public scrutiny and peer review.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (3, Funny)

jacekm (895699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595891)

HB #2 pencile has a serious flaw. It is suspectible to the man in the middle with cheap eraser.

JAM

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Frnknstn (663642) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596253)

The eraser still leaves evidence of the tampering behind, with a slight stain and the indentation on the paper.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Storlek (860226) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597949)

How can you accurately differentiate this from the voter accidentally filling in the wrong box and erasing it themselves? You're getting into dangling-chad territory here.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (2, Insightful)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598077)

How can you accurately differentiate this from the voter accidentally filling in the wrong box and erasing it themselves?

The easy answer, and incidentally the correct one, is: You don't.

If you put your X on the wrong candidate, you exit the booth and get a new ballot, while the old one is ripped in half.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

simong (32944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598129)

Certainly in the UK, if you make a mistake, you are supposed to return the incorrect ballot paper to the invigilators who will void it and give you another paper. The voided papers are also accounted for in the count.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (3, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596013)

My wishlist of features:

  • All data is stored encrypted and signed.
  • All communications protocols are authenticated, encrypted and signed.
  • There are multiple, redundant backups of all data, including a hard copy paper trail that can be authenticated by a unique signature printed on each ballot
  • Voting machine is all open source -- no binary-only anything, no exceptions. This includes the OS -- so Linux or *BSD. It also includes the firmware, so something like OpenFirmware or whatever.
  • Source and binaries on each machine are independently verifiable
  • Ability for independent auditors to audit each machine at hardware level, application level and OS level.
  • No wireless networks
  • Machines have airgap security WRT the Internet
  • Machines use encrypted filesystems.
  • Machines have tamper-evident seals over everything
  • Good secure configurations -- no unnecessary services running, secure authentication methods, OS patches kept up to date, software consistently audited for security



    • All in all, I want a machine that is custom-configured for electronic voting and locked down so tight the NSA would have trouble getting in.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (2, Interesting)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596275)

# All data is stored encrypted and signed.

All data should be stored in plain text, and signed with multiple hashes, keys and/or ciphers.

# All communications protocols are authenticated, encrypted and signed.

Only to the extend tat no one can say that for instance booth #5 voted on candidate X.

You don't want to shroud the data in mystery or obscurity, merely make them tamper-proof (resistant).

# There are multiple, redundant backups of all data, including a hard copy paper trail that can be authenticated by a unique signature printed on each ballot

Partially.
Use memory cards. The cards should be one-time use WORM memory. They contain the voting setup, in for instance XML. When the voting machine is initialized, the card is tagged with machine ID, timestamp, election official and authorization information, along with machine and software version keys. This should render the WORM card unreadable in any other machine. A crash and/or power outage should be recorded to the memory card if possible, and the machine should be reset using a new memory card, or the machine detects that the card is indeed it's own, and insert a new initialization header, preserving the original data.

During voting, each vote is written to the card, tagged with some sort of security and padded to a fixed length.

At the end of the day, this card is bundled with the paper trail, printed throughout the day like the internal tape in a cash register, and finalized with totals and signatures from election officials.

After the election, the card content must be dumped to an official and freely accessible server along with a scanned version of the paper tape.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (2, Insightful)

Feyr (449684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596855)

[quote]
# All data is stored encrypted and signed.

All data should be stored in plain text, and signed with multiple hashes, keys and/or ciphers.
[/quote]

i think you nailed that one. most people forget that encryption is no good if you already have access to the key, and the software must have the key if it's supposed to make use of the data in the file. thus, a hacker has the key

remember people: signing good. crypting, not so good

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596437)

In other words, you want commodity software that anyone could easily, and cheaply copy/use.
Great for citizens & taxpayers, not so good for the manufacturers. They might actually have to do real work to demonstrate the added value of machine x against machine y.

So, sorry, it's about as likely to happen as M$ open-sourcing Windows, (although in other news, I hear that they've offered to show the Chinese Gov. ALL of the windows source code in order to ally suspicions of backdoors - probably in fear of the Chinese Gov. throwing their resources behind some local version of Linux, as the Koreans - both North and South - have recently done).

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597479)

In other words, you want commodity software that anyone could easily, and cheaply copy/use.
Great for citizens & taxpayers, not so good for the manufacturers.
And the government's job is to protect the interests of those citizens and taxpayers, not the interests of the manufacturers.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597771)

Yup - and a fine record they have of doing that, eh?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6wNyTYzja8 [youtube.com]

Oldie, but goodie

Re:WhiteHat Voting (2, Insightful)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598115)

On THAT note.
Elections should be run by competent people, so politicians should really just stay away from the process.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Walkingshark (711886) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596561)

Hmm, I wouldn't depend on any kind of encryption at all. Instead, security for this kind of thing should be handled by making the entire process human readable and verifiable by any literate person.


The setup is simple. You have one machine that has some sort of electronic interface (touchscreen, keyboard, mouse, scroll wheel, whatever), and this machine lets a voter select all their candidates and other votes. Once they confirm that they are satisfied, they hit a "vote" button, and that machine prints out a human readable ballot that indicates each race and the candidate or option (in the case of referendum votes) selected. The voter than signs this ballot and inserts it into the secure optical scanner, which reads the votes and registers them electronically. The ballot, once read, is dropped into a secure hopper where it is stored.


If there are any questions or a recount is needed, ballots can either be re-scanned or they can be hand-counted by human beings. This is the vital part of the "paper trail" that some people seem to miss. Its not having paper in the process, its having paper that has been verified by each voter and that can be read by a human.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (2, Interesting)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596571)

Once you have a voter verifiable paper trail the rest becomes redundant. Though having enough security on the machine so you don't have to rely on the paper trail is a good thing.

But honestly, I don't see why the geeks are so upset here. This is our chance to rock the vote, and make sure that our votes actually count... more than once. If the current politicians aren't going to fix the voting machines, then lets flip a few bits, "elect" the EFF into office, and have this, plus copyright, patent, and net neutrality issues solved in one quick term.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596817)

You've thrown the word encrypted around a lot. I think signing is more important. But how do you ensure voter anonymity, but yet retain a way of checking that the machine hasn't just created 1000000 keypairs, and 1000000 votes, and signed them? Sure, let me generate my own keypair on my Linux, and sign my vote with them (perhaps encrypting with the Voting Authority public key), but that doesn't stop fake votes being introduced into the system, unless I somehow register my public key with the system, thereby losing my voter anonymity.
It's just not like securing a standard box.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597153)

That IS an interesting problem.

The keys used for signing must be a combination between the memory card, the hardware and the software keys. Add a timestamp to the vote, and raise hell if there are a timestamp mismatch (new vote is stamped before the previous vote).

The use-once WORM memory card I mentioned previously could be nice here as well, it could have an interface that simply disallowed accessing a specific address in it, you write to it by sending it a byte stream, and you read it by asking for data which would return a character stream from address 0 to the end of data.

howitzer for flies method (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21597765)

..really. computerized voting is not needed, a waste of resources (cash, manufacturing effort, etc, maintenance), inherently insecure (there is no possible way for a set of normal voters eyeballs to verify a count), it allows for the potential for widescale vote tampering,way way beyond any previous efforts where it had to be done precinct by precinct by corrupt individuals en masse, costs bundles of cash compared to paper and an empty box, and already has a track record of being possibly implicated in massive vote fraud that lead to profound differences in the apparent wishes of the electorate (using exit polls) and what allegedly happened (the alleged accurate vote count). Just look at Ohio in the last presidential race there. That badboy was hacked, no getting around it.

Computers have a place in our society, using them for elections is not one of them. Sometimes the complicated method is not the preferred method, ie, using howitzers to shoot down flies. Look at the wishlist of complicated crap you want to try and make it secure. I mean, really, just don't use computers in the first place. Make the vote a 24 hour period, and a national holiday so there is little excuse to not vote, and use paper ballots. Every fix the computers scheme out there always falls back on a paper trail. duh, just use paper then! Eliminate that complicated middleman. That and instant runoff voting or something like that combined with severe caps on campaign financing (it shouldn't take hundreds of millions of dollars to run campaigns, and face reality, these are almost pure bribes once you look at them hard, set a hundred dollar cap on all combined contributions per human per election cycle) would improve the political process immensely, Computerized voting machines are designed to be voting manipulation devices,and taxpayer cash suckers, fullstop. It's just generally a totally bad idea, this trying to fix computerized voting is turd polishing.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

pev (2186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596025)

1: Do like the rest of the world, and use a HB #2 pencil.

Hm, I could use an eraser to get around that. Do you realise that if paper was software, we could close down all the producers and distributers of erasers (or probably office equipment in gerneral!) in the states for selling devices for circumnavigating security?

~Pev

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

Gregb05 (754217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596593)

You can't circumnavigate the security on paper, it's flat!

Re:WhiteHat Voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596335)

you forget the pragmatic american approach to things:

1a) Diebold increases 5% the campaign funding to all directions

1b) Inquiries are buried, arbitrary decisions by governors/counties/districts are taken to increase electronic voting machine presence without even a paper trail record being kept

1c) People complain but are called liberals/american haters and dismissed

1d) Diebold profits!


Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597329)

Much of California votes using mark sense ballots similar to filling out a Scantron sheet when you do your SAT or ACT college entrance exams. While that's a good idea, you do need to consider two things:

1) Make sure you fill out the ballot with a permanent-ink pen--pencil marks can be erased and cause no end of troubles in terms of ballot readability and the potential for ballot fraud.

2) Ballots could end up being tremendously huge in size--when I voted in the 2006 general elections in November 2006 the paper ballot size--even with having to fill out both sides of the ballot--was huge.

Re:WhiteHat Voting (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597683)

2) Ballots could end up being tremendously huge in size--when I voted in the 2006 general elections in November 2006 the paper ballot size--even with having to fill out both sides of the ballot--was huge.

Define "huge".

The one I used in the recent Danish election was close to 15x100 cm, if not more. (It was folded 3 times on it's long axis, and folded it was roughly 15x30 cm).

ATM Machines (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595791)

For the last time - issue a voter card and use the cash machines / ATM machines / or whatever you call it in ur location.

It will even print a receipt.

If it good enough for your money it is good enough for your vote

Re:ATM Machines (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595827)

Hmmmmm... Didn't you hear about debit card frauds?

Re:ATM Machines (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595833)

Now, that begs the question, Are the ATM's good enough for your money? They are after all made by the same companies that can't make voting machines.

And I distinctly recall a past story about a DIEBOLD ATM playing music at some campus...

I just hope DIEBOLD live up their name, and die boldly...

Re:ATM Machines (1)

Sen.NullProcPntr (855073) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596141)

Now, that begs the question, Are the ATM's good enough for your money? They are after all made by the same companies that can't make voting machines.
I have never lost any money due to an ATM. Although banks have.

The problem is that the ATM/Voting Machine manufacturers look at their equipment as only needing protection from the outside. The unwashed masses that use the equipment to get cash or cast a vote can't be trusted at all. The insiders at the bank can be trusted, after all bankers wouldn't steal their own money (in most cases). That trusting of the insider mind set is being transfered to voting machines where the same thing can't be said about election officials.

The manufactures need to make their hardware and software tamper proof from both the inside and outside. Not sure about the hardware maybe make it a safe/vault with a two key system where one key is held by a local official and the other by a regional official? Software is much more complex than a vault or safe mechanism so probably an open approach where many eyes can find the faults is the best method.

No system will ever be 100% protected but there is a lot more that can be done.

Re:ATM Machines (2, Funny)

sdpuppy (898535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596277)

Perhaps Diebold should go back to what they do best...

... manufacture daisy wheel printers.

:-)

Re:ATM Machines (4, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595839)

but the problem is you can tell who voted for who and that's bad.

Re:ATM Machines (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595945)

but the problem is you can tell who voted for who and that's bad.

Only for the people who don't vote the way you want. It would only take a couple of elections and you could make them all go away anyway.

See? Nice and tidy :-)

Re:ATM Machines (1)

apt142 (574425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596219)

And your finger prints aren't all over the card that you turn in currently?

If the ATM had a firmware upgrade that reported a hash of your bank account number with the vote, that would be sufficient to verify uniqueness and avoid double voting. And it wouldn't be traceable. The only problem I have is that the banks would be facilitating this. I'd have a hard time letting a company, who's main goal is to make money, get involved in the voting process.

Re:ATM Machines (1)

Nomen Publicus (1150725) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596363)

Voting is confidential, not secret. If it were _truely_ secret, voting fraud would be almost impossible to detect and prosecute. The use of ATM machines is a very good idea that should be developed.

Re:ATM Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596831)

The connection between voters and votes is secret, not confidential. If it can be found out who voted for whom or if a voter can prove whom he voted for, then the election is not free. Voting fraud is detected by finding process violations.

Re:ATM Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595915)

For the last time

Good, because that idea is rubbish. Votes are supposed to be secret and unprovable and elections are supposed to be transparent. So far nobody has figured out a way to meet all three requirements when a computer is involved. Your proposition doesn't meet even a single requirement.

Re:ATM Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595959)

These are just issues that can be overcome like:

1. chip and pin
2. an abstraction layer between real voter details and the card - real identity not matched up
3. Available on "high security classed" ATMs only - like those in the bank wall put an audit/checking process in place on these.

etc etc

Re:ATM Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596343)

What?? According to the ES&S website they have "next generation voting solutions" coming out that have "Greater efficiency, accessibility, and security."

All we need are next generation solutions. Didn't you get the memo? Next generation man...that's the answer.

On a non-sarcastic note..you'd think their products wouldn't need greater efficiency. Imagine an ATM that needed greater efficiency. "Sorry sir, our ATM is only efficient enough to give you $80 of the $100 you requested."

Re:ATM Machines (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598001)

Then can you please tell Bank of America not to install any more Diebold ATM machines?

"common office implement" (3, Funny)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595793)

Do they really think this sounds more impressive than "paperclip" ?

Jolyon

Re:"common office implement" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595875)

I guess the point is that it sounds less insulting and isn't as much of an "instruction" as calling the thing by its name.

Re:"common office implement" (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597063)

In a security situation, despite how obvious this was, it's important not to spill the beans on exactly how it was done.

It's the difference between, "can be hacked with a few lines of Perl," and listing the script out so that any script kiddie can do it.

There may be states with laws and certifications processes not as stringent as California still using these devices. Best not to tell everyone precisely how to break into them. I hope other states will insist that their machines be retooled, but that might drive this company out of business, and then they have to repurchase all of their machines without a likelihood of getting their money back.

Best to keep it vague. You'd probably look at the lock and say, "Gee, I bet I could get in with a paper clip." They're not concerned about you. They're worried about giving a 15-year-old explicit instructions on how to hard hack some other state's machines.

--
Toro

Re:"common office implement" (2, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597111)

Do they really think this sounds more impressive than "paperclip" ?
Because it's obligatory:

"Hi! Looks like you're trying to right the election! Need some help?"

Re:"common office implement" (1)

jddj (1085169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598269)

Might've been "a ballpoint pen" [wired.com]

Criticism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595795)

It's not actually that hard to find sources that say these voting machines are dreadful [google.com] .

That said though, they do have a lot going for them, they just need to iron out the kinks. [google.com]

Give me a pencil and paper any day though!

Re:Criticism? (-1, Flamebait)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595853)

Till they iron out the kinks?
How many more republican presidents do the US have to endure before that happens?

Re:Criticism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596851)

do NOT click that first "voting machines are dreadful" link.

GNAA crap.

Re:Criticism? (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598145)

What about the second one? (My Antivirus software won't let me load that page).

Paper please! (2, Insightful)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595799)

I'm sure it's hard to hack a sheet of paper and a cardboard box. Please, leave democracy "unhackable", because where there's no paper for voting, there's no hard proof that you really did it...

Re:Paper please! (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595819)

Even with paper there would be problems. For instance I took the SATS. SAT board lose my scores and say I never took them. Grats? (Although this is partially my fault for losing my recipt but thats not the point in making the connection) Human error will still happen.

Re:Paper please! (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595877)

Well yes, but with a paper ballot, you can recount hard paper, not bits and bytes... We can also get back to hands-up voting at the acropolis, it's safer! ;)

Re:Paper please! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595995)

We can also get back to hands-up voting at the acropolis, it's safer! ;)

I say we should have an arena and fight to the death, whoever wins becomes president.

"Two men, hand to hand.
No jury, no appeal, no parole...

Two men enter, one man leaves."

Re:Paper please! (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596733)

We'd have a better government if whoever loses becomes president :)

Rich

Re:Paper please! (1)

eightball01 (646950) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596151)

Same here. I scored fairly well on my SAT. The grade was lost, but by the time I managed to get to college I didn't need it because I was "nontraditional." My first college lesson was that there was a new word for old. :(

Let's do it like the ancient Greeks ... (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595885)

I'm sure it's hard to hack a sheet of paper and a cardboard box. Please, leave democracy "unhackable", because where there's no paper for voting, there's no hard proof that you really did it...

... and scratch our votes into shards of pottery. How's that for hard proof ?


Alternatively, just use a whole brick.

Re:Paper please! (2, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595909)

Actually, there are problems there as well. Illinois in the Kennedy/Nixon race. LBJ in Texas. Louisiana in...well, pick a year. Gerrymandering/re-districting. Keeping the electoral college/getting rid of the electoral college. Nothing is, has been, or will be perfect with the vote...we just have to continue to hold people accountable and try and make it as publicly accessible while keeping the ballot secret. I'm pretty far-right, but I think at the LEAST there should be limited open-source scrutiny of any private contracting of voting, and it should probably be entirely run by the Federal or State Election commissions.

Re:Paper please! (1)

Radar Penguin (878132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596307)

Absolutely! Works to rid yourself of right wing loonies - at least it did down here recently.

I've never understood the fondness/obsession in the US for mechanising/automating simple things & making them complicated.

Re:Paper please! (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597419)

Oh, yes you certainly can "hack" a paper ballot--remember the 2000 Florida voting fiasco?

I would go with mark-sense ballots filled out in permanent ink. Reasons are simple: 1) mark-sense ballots are easily readable in both machine and hand counts and 2) filling out in permanent ink means positive proof of the vote, which avoids the issue of pencil marks on a ballot being erased, which can cause problems with unreadable ballots and possible ballot fraud.

How much more does it take? (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595817)

Those machines have been proven time and again that they're insecure, not reliable and that it takes special knowledge to even start verifying their results. Now we add ease of manipulation to the fold.

How much more does it take to see that it is a BAD idea?

Yes, paper voting is costy. But we're not talking something where cost is the deciding factor. Democracy is about two things: People participating in the government of their country, and people trusting the government of their country. In a democracy, people have (ok, should have) a say in their country's behaviour. And this in turn should give them a feeling of belonging, they should feel their country takes them serious and as more than just peons who can be ordered around, because they chose their government themselves. This usually means more trust and faith in their rulers, because they themselves chose them (not some divine right to rule or military force, they installed their government).

Especially the latter part is at risk. If you cannot easily debunk any claims of voting fraud, because the means to vote offer themselves for easy manipulation, you open your country for claims of illegal manipulations that cannot be disproved. You destroy the faith people have in their country and the support. Not that it was really necessary these days, people already started losing faith in the democratic process and democracy altogether. But this has the potential to be the last straw.

Cost is not an argument when it comes to voting. If you want people to support the government as wanted by the majority, you have to make sure that it will be seen as the will of the majority. If fraud is easy, dissenting people will always claim foul play and you will not have any chance to call them bad losers. You can't prove them wrong, quite the opposite, we have seen now time and again that they have every reason to be suspicious.

Re:How much more does it take? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595965)

Those machines have been proven time and again that they're insecure, not reliable and that it takes special knowledge to even start verifying their results. Now we add ease of manipulation to the fold

The problem is, a lot of people don't trust the human counters.

Re:How much more does it take? (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596007)

So you don't believe our count? No problem at all. Here's the ballot, count as much as you like.

See? Easy to shoot down any claims of voting fraud. You can count, you can read, you can verify the voting count.

Now please tell me how I, common man, aged past 30 and let's assume I'm not an IT expert, should verify some "count" done by a voting machine.

Re:How much more does it take? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596215)

Really? And that paper that you gave me with those nice votes on it - I didn't see them the whole time that the people voted before you carried them away in a car and took them to some government building's basement and SAID that you counted them. Now I don't know for sure if you were counting them or making more - that voted the way you wanted. Sure, it would take collusion - but in reality so would the other "hack" on the voting machines. Now, the thing that remains scary is that you could change a whole lot of votes really fast with the computerized systems where it takes a lot more time to "update" the votes on paper based systems.

But it would be silly to assume that nobody could tamper with paper based elections. My parents actually work during the elections as people running one of the California election stations. They did the paper ones and they now do the computer one. After hearing all about how they have had to do both, I have no doubt at all that they could have tampered with the outcome of EITHER the paper or the computer ones if they had wanted to (and wanted to risk the penalties).

Re:How much more does it take? (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596403)

To tamper with millions of paper ballots would require a massive conspiracy. To tamper with electronic voting machines, apparently all you need is a 16 year old kid and a computer.

REALLY open the voting... (3, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597363)

Every vote is assigned to an ID. Not your ID, but a relatively random numerical one. When the voting is done, the entire votes database is made available on DVD (or whatever medium is appropriate to storing 300 million records. I wouldn't expect much space at all, I'd bet the IDs take up more space than the actual data.

Then independent organizations can tally the votes themselves and verify that the election was on the up and up. They can also allow people to check their votes in the database to verify individually that the database itself is correct. Assuming the database has been distributed in whole to all of the various organizations, mis-votes should be easy enough to discover.

Then it only remains that you need to protect people's anonymity. A ticket that can be used to verify an individual vote on behalf of a person can also be used to verify that vote to the satisfaction of a vote-buying machine (or worse.)

A solution is to obscure the information by giving each voter not one, but a list of ID numbers and told which one is theirs privately. That way, nefarious organizations wouldn't be able reliably say they've been given the correct number, which should kill their scheme. It's not a perfect solution, though, and I can already see flaws in it, but that just means it needs a bit more work before it's ready for prime time.

Audit (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596459)

Anyone is free to come in, hang around, and watch the election. If it happens inside a black box, there ain't much to see. I've been a poll worker for many years here in the People's Republic of California, and you should see the tin-foil-hat-types that come in to be poll watchers. Comedy. That said, although all the precinct workers' primary goal seems to be upholding the integrity of the system, I don't think I'd advise any one to trust a system that CAN be gamed.

Re:How much more does it take? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596519)

That's why with paper voting they have other people watching the counters and verifying their results. People from all interested parties can easily watch what's going on, to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. The same can't be said for machine, as it's really hard to verify that a machine is counting correctly.

Re:How much more does it take? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596331)

How is paper voting any more expensive than machine assisted voting? From my understanding, it's extremely cheap.

Re:How much more does it take? (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597555)

How much more does it take to see that it is a BAD idea?
I think we're only going to see people turn against electronic voting machines that do not have a paper trail once someone manipulates a vote using those machines so far that it's impossible to ignore. If, for instance, ALL the votes in the state of California (over 50 electoral votes -- I believe 271 or thereabouts gets you the White House) were changed to vote for CowboyNeal, that would be a situation that couldn't be ignored. The major news organizations would _have_ to cover that story. It would take that level of outrage (or the level of having all the votes in the state of New York be modified to be votes for Osama bin Laden, for example) to get the message through that these machines are not secure and that we shouldn't be trusting our votes to them.

easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21595825)

1 ban linux and paperclips
2 ???
3 profit!

This begs the question (4, Funny)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595859)

Does it make paperclips and Linux illegal in Germany now that they can be used for hacking?

Re:This begs the question (1)

matt me (850665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596005)

Does it make paperclips and Linux illegal in Germany now that they can be used for hacking?
Shit, are you an insider? How else would know that the "common office implement" in question are papercl*ps?

And then what? (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596787)

Authorities will start cracking down on the creators of vi for releasing software capable of hacking the electoral process.

Whats the point of e-voting (5, Insightful)

gmthor (1150907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595865)

I believe the most important thing about e-voting is that you can't pic up a random person from the street, explain him how it works, and after it ask him if the process of voting was done correctly. Paper voting on the other side is so easy that manipulation is easy to realize. I mean the only point of e-voting is that some poor government officials can go home earlier. I want Democracy for everybody.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (2, Insightful)

Twisted Willie (1035374) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595913)

The point of e-voting is to remove human error (in all shapes and forms) from the counting process. Assuming that at one point the electronic voting machines can be made secure enough, it's a much better way of getting accurate numbers than by paper voting.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596059)

electronic voting machines can be made secure enough

That's currently the big if right now. It's just not transparent enough, and it's like all the companies building machines forgot completely about security; substituting a little theater instead. In addition, I don't like how a single machine or media failure can take out all of a machine's votes for the election. Two or three of those can throw elections today.

In addition, most of the advocates of paper voting have been talking about optical scan ballots. This opens up recounts to multiple solutions - Company X's scanner, Company Y's scanner, verified by hand if deemed necessary.

I am not one of those who believe that hand counting is automatically the most accurate - but optical scanning is old tech at this point, very accurate, and most importantly - auditable.

Secure and accurate Voting is always going to be complicated and tough - especially when you figure that you normally have at least two parties with people willing to cheat, who may be in the system.

Don't kid yourself... (3, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595923)

I mean the only point of e-voting is that some poor government officials can go home earlier.

...there's more money to be made than with paper and pencil voting. Producing cheap, insecure machines without a paper trail increases companies' profit margins. Lawmakers have be lax and slow to respond, probably because their hands are so comfortable in those companies' pockets. Obviously, the only ones who care are "some" of the voters. Hopefully, that will become "most".

I, for one, like seeing my vote on hardcopy.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595937)

That is exactly the problem with e-voting: You have to trust.

With normal pen-and-paper voting, all skill you need is being able to count and discriminate between various candidates being chosing on the paper. You don't believe my count? You think I'm trying to fix elections? Here's the ballot, count for yourself.

With e-voting, you face a problem. You need very special skills to actually conduct a recount (if it is possible at all). Don't believe me that I'm not trying to fix elections in my favor? Sucks to be you if you don't happen to have the skills.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (0)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596107)

This has to be meant as a joke.
If not please look into Florida and the problems that they had with paper ballots. Then look into the dead voting in Chicago and Texas and see how easy that was to detect when paper ballots were used. That is not even mentioning all the times ballots were found in people car trunks, uncounted votes were found during the following election and ballots that are cast out because they have extra markings.
The reason that e-voting is being pushed is because it is better, the reason you hear about all this stuff with e-voting is that it is easy to detect and flag.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596485)

Exactly. I'm a software developer. Most people would say I'm a pretty smart guy. However, it would still take me a lot of research to be able to verify that an electronic voting system is even secure. If I could verify it at all. And still when I walk up to the machine on voting day, it would be impossible for me to verify that the machine was running the correct software, unmodified hardware, and was actually doing what the original design said, and not something else.

Re:Whats the point of e-voting (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596909)

Paper voting on the other side is so easy that manipulation is easy to realize.

Not to be pedantic, but the system in question does use paper (just not easily human readable). People mark machine readable paper ballots, and the PBC can be used to check the ballot before they turn it in to ensure that it is not over- or under-voted, etc. From the description of how they are using the PBCs, it sounds like they are trying to avoid some of the kinds of problems reported in Florida 2000, by letting a voter see how the machine will tally their vote.

The votes are counted electronically, but paper is still used -- in a fashion.

Sounds good! (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595979)

The paper seals were easily bypassed, and the lock could be picked with a "common office implement". After cracking the physical security of the device, the testers found it simple to reconfigure the BIOS to boot off external media. After booting a version of Linux, they found that critical system files were stored in plain text. They also found that the election management system that initializes the voting machines used unencrypted protocols to transmit the initialization data to the voting machines, allowing for a man-in-the-middle attack.

Well, sounds good enough! What are we waiting for to adopt this thing?! Do these guys make avionics software as well? Because I'd be delighted to put my life in the same hands we put our democracy in!

common office implement (2, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21595991)

What, a service pack?

I saw Heroes last night ... (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596031)

and all you need is one of them little kid things to rig the election.

Translation... (2, Funny)

daninspokane (1198749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596211)

"Common office implement" AKA: Paper clip and some whiteout I hear Richard Dean Anderson was on the testing team, so really, that's their own fault.

Why the effort to prove it wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596217)

Why are so many working so hard to prove how insecure these systems are? Is it not true that the current paper system and methods are less secure than any of these electronic systems? These researchers into the security of these systems should also use their smarts to improve and provide more secure systems rather than waiting for the next release of a voting machine to scan over and point out its flaws. It seems like the market is open for someone to actually put together a secure system. If they are smart enough to find the flaws in these systems then they should be able to put together a venture and build a real secure system. With their experience debunking other systems they can continue to use this skill to counter the claims of their competitors.

So much effort proving the system is faulty rather than working to improve it. If to much time is put in proving the electronic system is faulty we will never be able to move away from our existing faulty system.

Re:Why the effort to prove it wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21596345)

Is it not true that the current paper system and methods are less secure than any of these electronic systems?

No, it is not true, and that is the point. Proponents of electronic voting systems want something which is inherently unfit for the purpose. Elections must be transparent. No computer system can achieve the transparency of collecting pieces of paper in a ballot box and counting them under public supervision. Electronic voting systems try to achieve transparency in a multitude of ways, but all systems either don't achieve transparency or they violate one of the other two requirements: secret and unprovable votes (nobody must know who you voted for and it must be impossible for you to prove who you voted for.) The people who expose the flaws in electronic voting systems don't try to build a better electronic voting system because they know the futility of the task. As long as that insight hasn't reached the masses, they must refute every flawed instance of e-voting.

Re:Why the effort to prove it wrong? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598307)

Um, #|brain>mouth ?

Let me tell you about our recent federal election. We had two pieces of paper to fill out. I marked them with a pencil and placed them in boxes being watched by multiple election officials. These boxes are then transported to a central location by multiple officials. Each ballot is then counted with officials from each party watching. We had a result by midnight and nobody is crying foul.

How is this less secure?

Paper Seals = DoS? (4, Insightful)

kieran (20691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596339)

If the machines have paper seals in an accessible place, then you could very easily DOS the vote of a district that is known to be unfavourable to you simply by slicing the seal with your thumbnail, without ever having to hack the machine at all!

Re:Paper Seals = DoS? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596689)

If the machines have paper seals in an accessible place, then you could very easily DOS the vote of a district that is known to be unfavourable to you simply by slicing the seal with your thumbnail, without ever having to hack the machine at all!

That's true, but anything accessible to the public could be potentially vandalized. At least the jurisdiction in question is using the PBCs to let the voters check their ballots, and not necessarily for counting the precinct results. If the machine were vandalized, the precinct operation would be degraded -- by not providing a way for voters to check the ballot -- but not totally offline, since the marked ballots could be counted elsewhere on an intact machine.

You're still right, making it so easy to vandalize by using paper seals instead of something a little more durable was not a very good choice.

Criminal organizations (3, Informative)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596401)

If I defrauded a state and sold it uncertified voting equipment, I'd be in jail.

Why isn't this organization, which has clearly committed a criminal act, in jail?

Re:Criminal organizations (1)

gznork26 (1195943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596925)

"Why isn't this organization, which has clearly committed a criminal act, in jail?"

Because you can only put people in jail, not organizations. Even though corporations have usurped some of the rights of personhood, they do not have to bear the risks, and if they're careful, they never die.

But what if they could be jailed? What if they could even be executed for murder? I'm a writer, so I decided to find out, by running a little thought experiment in the form of short stories. The series (there are 8 stories so far) starts with a tale called "Logical Conclusion", which begins like this...

=====
Would you just look at all these lawyers. The glare from all that dental work is worse than the TV lights I've been staring into lately. I'm glad I remembered my sunglasses. Lawyers. You'd think this case was going to set off a litigation frenzy the way they're swarming.

I just hope none of them gets a good look at me. I swear, if one more photographer wants a copy of my face, I'll take his in trade. It's gotten so bad lately that I've even started to avoid looking at mirrors.
=====
The whole thing is located here:
http://klurgsheld.wordpress.com/2007/08/30/short-story-logical-conclusion/ [wordpress.com]

The stories have a convenient forward link at the end, so it's easy to track through it if you want. Of course, if you want to know what happens after the most recent one, "Unvarnished Siding", you'll have to check back once in a while. I'll be adding the ninth installment this weekend.

Psh (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596637)

Find me a machine that can't be hacked by a paperclip and I'll find you the episode of Mc Guyver that'll prove you dead wrong.

What's next? (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596741)

Next authorities will be cracking down on the creators of vi for releasing software capable of hacking the electoral process.

Ban all paper clips (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21596875)

Well, obviously the solution is to ban all 'common office implements' since they constitute 'anti-circumvention devices'... sigh...

Moving into the electronic age... (3, Interesting)

doit3d (936293) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597025)

...can be a good thing, but this really concerns me. I'm all for changing with the times, don't get me wrong. I just feel that electronic and software items which play such a critical role in the much corrupt political system we have today do need more oversight from public entities, not private companies or political agencies. I feel we are far from where we need to be for electronic voting in the US to be reliable or trustworthy. I do have hope that it can be an option in the future though.



I opt to kill a few trees to retain the paper method for now. I was forced to use an electronic voting machine (Diebold) in my district during the last local election in my state. I will not be using one regardless come the next election. Anyone can manipulate the machine behind the privacy fence surrounding the machine, without anyone knowing about it. Who is to say it cannot be tampered with even before the people are given access to the machine to cast their vote. I do not feel comfortable using an electronic voting device at this time.



I am almost 100% convinced that major elections do not matter anymore in this country in this day and age. The rich, and the corrupt have a strangle hold on our government and the media. Just look at the biased mass media coverage that is happening today. It is as if the media has already made the decisions for us about the elections, and those who own the media have very powerful ties to the government. There are no real debates between candidates, but they are still called debates. There are no tough questions, and there are no truthful straight forward consistent answers but from a couple of candidates, which are silenced and kept from the publics knowledge by powerful people whom are in control. I do have some hope, but it is fading fast.



I honestly feel that there will be another civil war in this country if things continue the way they are. It will not be the Whites against the Blacks, against the Hispanics, etc... It will be the poor against the rich. You know where the corporations and the corrupt politicians will stand when this happens. Change takes ballots or bullets. Sooner or later people will be tired of trying to make change peacefully with ballots.



It may not happen in my lifetime, but I think it will happen sooner than anyone thinks if the current path is followed. All it will take is someone high up in the military to finally get fed up with the corruption to take the action of cleaning house. We have already seen first hand the dissent in the military ranks all the way to the top. Several generals have peacefully resigned/retired and spoken in protest to the insane, illogical decisions made by the current administration and the path it has taken us down. Sooner or later someone with a bigger set of balls will do something about it if this continues.



It would not be a good thing to have this happen, but if things continue the way they are I would sadly be in support of it. It would be a rough road, but change is needed in a bad way. We are currently on a path of assured economic destruction, which will have effects far and wide around the world. We should learn from the past history of other, once large and powerful Republics. It seems to me that we are doomed to repeat history unless there is change.



I hold the hope though, that this vast information highway called the internet will tip the field in the favor of the people in due time. The option to see and read more news from many sources, rather than the few sources force fed to the masses controlled by the powerful and corrupt few. The internet has broadened my view of things. This too may not happen in my lifetime, but I hold hope that it will foster a peaceful change in time.



I hope for a peaceful change, but I am very afraid of what could and might happen.

Re:Moving into the electronic age... (1)

StickyWidget (741415) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597211)

...he said from his armored concrete bunker in Western Colorado while cleaning his .30-06 rifle and wearing full jungle camouflage.

~Sticky
/Removed my Karma bonus from this one, cause it's flamebait.

Re:Moving into the electronic age... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21598433)

Well said. It's a shame that the majority of U.S. citizens seem to be unaware of the decay of our republic.

Are voting machines worse than ATMs? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#21597791)

I'm very curious to know. Are the vendors of voting machines just cynical, and believe that nobody really cares about security and that they can pull the wool over the eyes of the people who make the buying decisions?

Or do they find that the people who buying voting machines are equally cynical, and really just want cheapjack machines, paying only lip service to protecting the public that uses them?

Or, if the truth were known, are ATM machines really just as bad?

(Anyone know what the relative cost is? Judging by general appearance, size, weight, and geek guesswork, I'd think an ATM might cost $50,000 exclusive of installation, an electronic voting machine might cost $5,000, a "traditional" levers-and-counters no-electricity mechanical voting machine about the same, and a punched-card voting machine $500... anyone know the real numbers?)

Easily explained to Congressmen and the Media (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21598445)

Those were _HACKERS_! They booted a linux CD!

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