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Criticizing the criticisms in an ongoing e-voting saga

Representatives from three voting machine companies expressed their criticisms against a California state-sponsored “top-to-bottom review” that found “very real” vulnerabilities in their products.

The study was lead by UC Davis professor Matt Bishop, who discussed the study at a hearing held by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, whose office is currently deciding whether or not to allow the machines’ use during the Feb. 5 presidential primary.

Under a contract with UC Davis and Bowen’s office, Bishop’s study examined machines from Diebold Election Systems, Hart Intercivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems. The conclusions, partially released last week, included findings that the voting systems posed difficulties for voters with disabilities and were vulnerable to intrusion. "It may be that all of [the vulnerabilities] can be protected against. It may be that some cannot,” said Bishop.  According to Secretary Bowen, a fourth company, Election Systems & Software, was also to be included in the review but was omitted because it was late in providing needed information to her office.

According to state law, Bowen has until Friday to set the rules for the upcoming primary election.  "I intend to go through a methodical process to determine what to do next," she said.

Sequoia Systems, in a statement released Monday on their web site, called the study’s findings “implausible,” objecting to the fact that the study was conducted in a closed lab environment over a period of weeks as opposed to a true election environment or in accordance with ISO criteria. “None of the attacks described … are capable of success,” said Sequoia sales executive Steven Bennett to a panel of officials from the Secretary of State’s office.

Diebold and Sequoia further pointed out that the study evaluated outdated versions of the voting machines and their software. “While it cannot be guaranteed that all of the extremely improbable vulnerabilities identified are prevented by subsequent product development and updates, many are specifically addressed,” said Sequoia. However, Sequoia acknowledged that it is working to insure that the “few system vulnerabilities” found could not be used to tamper with election results.

“Voting system reliability is something we're always working at improving … security is never finished,” said Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Schafer.

Hart Intercivic also objected to the study’s laboratory environment, stressing it was not a considerable substitute for real-world “people, processes, procedures, policies, and technology” and, in the company’s official statement, suggested that a better study might “define a realistic threat that faces all layers of security in an election.”

Even members of the security community have questioned the study’s approach: “While the goals of this effort were laudable, our organization is concerned about its execution,” writes Jim March of watchdog group Black Box Voting, to Secretary Bowen. “Your agency's review only partially examines the risks of inside manipulation with these systems. Procedural remedies can be circumvented by those with some level of inside access. In fact, we would contend that the most high risk scenario of all is that of inside manipulation, and we would also contend that the systems used in California cannot be secured from inside tampering.”

Since their inception, voting machines in the US have received a bad rap amidst a storm of negative press, mishaps, and concern about their ability to be tampered with:

In September 2006, Princeton researchers were able to hack Diebold’s AccuVote-TS machine, going so far as to write a computer virus that spread between other Diebold machines. Later, voting machines from Sequoia were also found to have similar vulnerabilities. “You can’t detect it,” explained Princeton Professor Andrew Appel.

In the same month, a team of untrained 54-year-old women from Black Box Voting, using 4 minutes’ worth of time and $12 in tools, were able to circumvent tamper-proof seals on a Diebold vote scanner, and were able to replace the device’s memory card.

Also in September 2006, a consulting firm working for Ohio’s Cuyahoga County -- which includes Cleveland -- found huge discrepancies between the electronic and paper records kept by Diebold voting machines. Ohio was a key swing state for the tight 2004 presidential election, and its electoral votes help decide the result.

Earlier that year in August, Diebold voting machines botched the Alaska preliminaries in several precincts as they failed to connect to their dial-up servers to upload vote results, slowing the election considerably. Officials had to hand-count votes and manually upload the totals to the central server.

In December 2005, a Diebold whistleblower under the name of “Dieb-throat,” who was once a “staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential” gave a scathing interview to The Raw Story accusing Diebold of mismanagement and burying known backdoors in their own products, including one that made the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Alert System for the first week of September 2004.

In 2004, Black Box Voting released a video demonstrating that a chimp, given an hour of training, was able to hack a Diebold voting machine. “What you saw was a staged production ... analogous to a magic show,” said Diebold spokesman David Bear, in response.

These findings, as well as others both negative and positive, culminated in a March 2007 warning from the US Government Audit Office as it testified before the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government: “[E-voting] security and reliability concerns are legitimate and thus merit the combined and focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration.”

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RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Master Kenobi on 8/1/2007 8:29:18 AM , Rating: 2
Put down the crackpipe there boy. Your paranoia is in line with the people who think the moon landings were faked.

By Lightning III on 8/1/2007 1:10:40 PM , Rating: 2
just because your paranoid doesn't mean there not out to get you

If a letter sent to you by the GOP with explicite do not Forward request gets returned to them, your right to vote will automaticly be challenged.

although if you are white anglo saxon protestant you will never see this letter since it seems it was targeted to minorities and the poor it was sent to Black university's in august and to our soliders in IRAQ.

so if you can't win it suppress it

how rovian

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By TheGeezer on 8/1/2007 2:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
Crack pipe? C'mon. It's a tad reckless to predict the future that way, but if past is prologue he might be right. Certainly nothing has been too unethical so far for the current crop of corruptos in power to resort to.

Leaving aside the standard "sneer at the messenger to invalidate the message" right-wing debate avoidance technique, consider the obvious in Ohio. a) 2002 - Diebold promises Ohio to the Republicans in 2004. b) 2004 - Ohio election looks crooked as can be and c) Ohio Republicans stop barely short of using shotguns to prevent outside investigations.

Generally speaking, people who refuse to be open have something to hide. Just like Gonzales, our micromanaging AG who "can't remember" anything, or Cheney's fourth branch of government refusing to divulge what they plan to do in case of another attack. Or even divulge who was present in the smoke-filled roooms where energy policy was planned prior to California's fraudulent "energy crisis."

In security, adding an entrance to a building doesn't increase intrusion vulnerability linearly. It's a nonlinear process. Keeping votes locally instead of transmitting them, encrypted, to a well monitored location is like adding a LOT of doors to a building. But a centralized database is much more vulnerable to insider manipulation. We're talking about Diebold here, a Republican-a-la-neocon ideologue as committed to centralized right-wing rule as the Roberts court. A centralized database then, but with decentralized, well sampled precinct-level paper receipts to verify results and keep the data keepers honest - that would provide a level of security no politician really wants.

Stop attacking someone who is alarmed at what he sees from his vantage point of, what was it, 72 years or so. Take a look at the facts and start to wonder why those cockroaches go to such extreme lengths to scurry away from the light.

RE: Election Fraud 2000&2004
By Ringold on 8/3/2007 3:37:45 AM , Rating: 2
In response I'd say to broaden our collective memories past the last few years and recall that the Democrat party has just as colorful a history of swinging elections as the Republican party could hope to aspire to. Even their legal methods of manipulating things, such as the many College Democrats I know who are registered Republican's for the express purpose of voting for the weakest candidate in the Primary, are just as dangerous to the ultimate outcome as a little actual vote tampering.

The safest assumption is that, unless foreign agents are intervening and committing fraud (and nearly every hostile foreign agent I can imagine, except for China, would prefer a dove rather than a hawk) then both sides are cheating in isolated local areas, and that the net effect is essentially zero because, praise be upon them for their wisdom, our founding fathers gave us the Electoral College which is essentially a safeguard against many such things.

I just hope that if Hillary pulls out a close win against who ever we run against her that my fellow Republican's shut the hell up about it instead of spamming the intertubes with their paranoia for going on SEVEN years now.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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