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August 1, 2006 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Worst Ever Security Flaw in Diebold Voting Machine A single switch is all that is required to cause the machine to boot an unverified external flash instead of the built-in, verified EEPROM."
posted by Unregistered User (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does it matter anyway?

There seems to be a fair amount of difference between Republicans and Democrats in the general population. But when it comes to politicians, I really don't see much difference at all. They are going to support whatever is good for them to stay in power, gain more power, and accumulate wealth.

"Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or, would we all be happier by admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn't worked out, to hell with it."
- Hunter S. Thompson
posted by Unregistered User at 3:31 PM on August 1, 2006


Could we link to the main article rather then through slashdot? Slashdot sucks ass.
posted by delmoi at 3:34 PM on August 1, 2006


Surely this?
posted by Zozo at 3:40 PM on August 1, 2006


Nope. Not even this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:49 PM on August 1, 2006


Well, whether or not /. is teh suck seems quite subjective. However, thanks for the direct article link. If I wasn't running late for work to my Bush economy second job, I might have had time to post it as well.
posted by Unregistered User at 3:49 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Unregistered User, why do you hate America so... Ah, I can't even finish the meme anymore. I surrender. Pass me the kool aid.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2006


this is why democracy is gone here--in the old days they had to actually work at cheating (with payments to individuals, and records of the dead, etc)--now it's just a switch in the back of a shoddy machine and you can make it give any result, true or no.
posted by amberglow at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2006


The problem with suggesting that electronic voting machines are insecure and not to be trusted in today's society is that you are instantly labelled a nutjob. And yet, why have this functionality at all? How many different software versions do you need on one machine?

Nevermind the fact that it's been obvious for years that these electronic voting machines are absolutely not to be trusted. At the very least they need a voter verified paper trail. I tried having a conversation with my hardcore rightwing father about the total lack of security in electronic voting machines and was accused of being a delusional, paranoid Bush hater. His response to this troubling issue was to pretend like nothing was wrong and that no one would ever even contemplate tampering with election results.

That being said, I have absolutely no faith in the veracity of the 2004 election results. But what can you do? The consequence of the lack of security is the inability to prove anything happened. Convenient? A little too.

Is there any reason to trust the upcoming national elections more than the last round?
posted by polyhedron at 3:57 PM on August 1, 2006


Lawsuit seeks to toss out Bilbray election, basically on the basis that poll workers took voting machines home with them before the election, so they could possibly have been tampered with. Seems more like an awareness-raising thing than something they can actually win. Especially since they are going to have to do the election again in November anyway.
posted by jlub at 3:58 PM on August 1, 2006


Nicely said polyhedron.
posted by nickyskye at 4:13 PM on August 1, 2006


Voting fraud is a problem, but the more fundamental issue is that too many people vote for bad candidates.
posted by brain_drain at 4:21 PM on August 1, 2006


Geez...Somehow, somewhere, a Democrat will win and will want to rig this system to their own advantage. At that point, just about everyone will give a crap.

Everyone except those in power, who want to retain that power. And, I suppose, everyone who's happy sucking the teats of any BigCo that happens to have a few lobbyists and a good PR firm on hand.

Part of me wants to fight this with everything I've got. Another part of me wants to just toss that idea, and simply focus on raising my kids in my neighborhood in my city, to be the best people they can be -- statewide and national "democracy" be damned.

Sigh.
posted by diastematic at 4:23 PM on August 1, 2006


How would you even know, brain_drain? The voting machines certainly won't tell you who voted for whom.
posted by odinsdream at 4:23 PM on August 1, 2006


Exit polls. Which may, sadly, now be more accurate than the votes as tabluated.
posted by nicwolff at 4:28 PM on August 1, 2006


Go back to sleep.
posted by you just lost the game at 4:35 PM on August 1, 2006


Hey look, this pencil here has no switches at all...
posted by pompomtom at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2006


Let me get this straight - you have to crack the machine open to flip the switch and boot the ROM? Isn't it more of an issue that these machines have no paper trail or other way to verify how one has actually voted?!
posted by photoslob at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2006


Speaking of exit polls, I knew this country was in trouble when I heard someone say they (exit polls) were "notoriously inaccurate" around the time of the 2004 election. I asked him where he got that idea, and he didn't have an answer. He still insisted it was true.

There are a lot of people who simply will not consider the possibility that elections are being stolen, no matter the evidence. Instead, they will believe any lie they hear on TV or radio which reassures them.
posted by Potsy at 4:45 PM on August 1, 2006


photoslob; this procedure could happen anytime before the election - anywhere these machines are sitting. The fake software could behave exactly like the regular software, except moving 10% of votes to the wrong side. This is an extremely bad flaw, but yes, the overriding issue is the fact that there is no need for electronic voting, and that paper records are just fine.
posted by odinsdream at 4:47 PM on August 1, 2006


Meh. Of course without physical security the machine can be compromised - see this recent AskMe. It took a team of people who know what they're doing to find this possible problem, and it's a problem that would take a lot of effort to exploit. Compare this to the ease of exploiting the time-honoured system of bits of paper in feebly-locked ballot boxes, with fallible and bribeable humans counting them. Which looks like more effort? And that's not mentioning postal voting, which is even less secure.
posted by matthewr at 4:48 PM on August 1, 2006


It was a nice democracy you had down there for a while.
posted by you just lost the game at 4:54 PM on August 1, 2006


"Intriguingly, the exit-poll process is being blamed for the networks
calling the Florida election early; but in this case, the exit
polls accurately reflected how people in Palm Beach County
thought they had voted rather than how their votes were actually counted. --PGN"

(PG Neumann - ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes, 2001 - portal.acm.org)
http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/510000/505900/p14-neumann.pdf?key1=505900&key2=6536744511&coll=GUIDE&dl=portal,ACM&CFID=11111111&CFTOKEN=2222222

Exit polls were astonishingly reliable up until all of a sudden they quit being. You have to wonder. Or not.
posted by hank at 5:00 PM on August 1, 2006


matthewr; nobody claimed paper-based voting was without flaws. However, the flaws of electronic machines that run unverified software enable an extremely small number of people to steal an entire election. Really. It would take maybe a dozen people to steal an election if it were all run on this same hardware. And, you'd never, ever know about it.
posted by odinsdream at 5:06 PM on August 1, 2006


Exit polls were astonishingly reliable up until all of a sudden they quit being. You have to wonder. Or not.

Presumably the spread of early voting and no-excuse-needed absentee voting has a lot to do with this. People voting early, or voting using no-excuse absentee forms, are not likely to be a random sample of the population, so the pool of people you talk to on election day will be biased.

You can compensate for this, of course. Either by getting data on early voters -- but this will be hard, since you'll have to oversample by a factor of 5 or 10 or so -- or by modeling who's likely to use which method of voting so you can extrapolate from the election-day results to the election results, but to do this you need a good statistical model of the choice to use early voting, which probably doesn't exist as the option is new. Exit polls as predictions of elections have become a whole hell of a lot more difficult over the past 10 years or so.

None of which is to say that there weren't hijinks. There might well have been.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:43 PM on August 1, 2006


The existence of these machines is the "flaw."
posted by muppetboy at 5:47 PM on August 1, 2006


"It was a nice democracy you had down there for a while."

Had? When?
posted by muppetboy at 5:49 PM on August 1, 2006


Guys, there's a goddamn infrared port on the side of the device, for no apparent reason. Are there really still people who don't think this stuff was built to be hacked?
posted by effugas at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2006


The solution will have to be a bunch of hackers getting together and agreeing to hack an election. Make it a shitty special election for city councilman or something, and make it very, incredibly mind blowingly obvious that it's been hacked. All one would have to do is volunteer to be a poll worker.

Then call the media and turn yourself in.
posted by empath at 6:14 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


There were ample posts here on MeFi after the 2004 un-election demonstrating all kinds of mathematical miracles in Ohio and other other places. I'm sure Diebold has sold this latest crap as an "improved" system.

I would refuse to use one of these machines just based on the fact that Diebold refuses to add a paper receipt into the machine so I can verify that my vote was tallied properly.

That this is still a problem goes a long ways towards showing what little regard the Republican machine cares for even a semblance of fair play.
posted by fenriq at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2006


When we have lost all faith in our government, it is time to put our faith in zombies.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:36 PM on August 1, 2006


You can't tell if this is a big deal or not, because we don't know about the rest of the system. For example, if you have to submit a key along with the recorded vote count, then it doesn't matter if any arbitrary code could run on the machine, because any arbitrary code wouldn't have the key.

I'm not about to try to figure the rest of the system out either. As far as I'm concerned, if there is no paper trail there is no security. The machines should simply be automated typers/counters, then security would be a non issue.

Like.. 80 year old Betty comes to the touch screen, she is presented with choices. After she has made her selections a page is printed which she can read over to confirm it is what she wanted. She takes that page to the pole workers who feed it into another machine that counts her votes. The page is then kept on file for reference.
posted by Chuckles at 6:47 PM on August 1, 2006


empath: The solution will have to be a bunch of hackers getting together and agreeing to hack an election. Make it a shitty special election for city councilman or something, and make it very, incredibly mind blowingly obvious that it's been hacked. All one would have to do is volunteer to be a poll worker.

It's been done. Doing it to a real election would be more problematic since it involves jail time. And if there are people out there willing to rig a national election, you can be sure they will use every resource available to find the hackers.

I proposed the idea of starting an open source voting machine project to a friend way back when. His response was, "why would politicians want honest voting?"
posted by ryoshu at 7:17 PM on August 1, 2006


I'm going to be blunt. This is the typical slashdot idiocy and populism, to inflate a controversy on irrelevant technical grounds. EPROM security? You can install software into a computer if you have physical access, and then it's only one switch that you have to flip? wtf, really.

Josef Stalin said, "It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. "

It's like, our electronic vote counting would be so honest, trustworthy, and transparent -- if only it weren't for this new insecure extrnal flash drive override switch. Why, with that switch, someone could actually tamper with the results.
posted by adzuki at 7:35 PM on August 1, 2006


Days like this I say 'If I won the lottery I'd make a fucking open source voting machine and PAY to get the fucking code/machine certified.'

Then I realize no one would use it.
*goes back to drinking to see if I can channel Mel*
posted by rough ashlar at 7:49 PM on August 1, 2006


It was a nice democracy you had down there for a while.

Don't be so snotty, Harper will be fucking up your democracy soon enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2006


Wasn't there a post last winter about some guy who turned up dead in a motel room -- an alleged suicide, but a convenient one? This guy, IIRC, was involved with voting machines and was going to testify or had testified to fraud involving them?
posted by pax digita at 8:27 PM on August 1, 2006


I'm going to be blunt. This is the typical slashdot idiocy and populism, to inflate a controversy on irrelevant technical grounds. EPROM security? You can install software into a computer if you have physical access, and then it's only one switch that you have to flip? wtf, really.

Josef Stalin said, "It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. "


So a fucking mysterious infrared port on the side of the machine constitutes "irrelevant technical grounds"?!?

And we've bargained our way down to accepting Stalinisms as folksy common-sense now? WTF?!?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:29 PM on August 1, 2006


so what next? does hoping for fair elections at all qualify as idiotic populism in your book, adzuki?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:31 PM on August 1, 2006


For saulgoodman.
posted by Zozo at 9:27 PM on August 1, 2006


But when it comes to politicians, I really don't see much difference at all.

WØRD: Ned Lamont. You gotta grab the Jul31 torrent and watch the interview.

If you could convince anyone with that capability of speaking clearly, simply, and openly into your Senate, you'd all be a helluva lot better off.

Thing I can't figure out is why anyone except Connecticut voters gives a damn about the race. Ned's exciting, sure, but it's not like he's running for a position that gives him any real power, is it?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 PM on August 1, 2006


This is the typical slashdot idiocy and populism, to inflate a controversy on irrelevant technical grounds.

If by irrelevant you mean competent, sure. Trade secrets is not a viable defense when you are talking about an electronic voting machine. Security through obscurity is never a good policy. Especially when we are dealing with little things like democracy.
posted by ryoshu at 10:14 PM on August 1, 2006


Er, that'd be the The Colbert Report torrent. In case you don't recognize the pop-culture reference to WØRD.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 PM on August 1, 2006


fff, if he wins it gets rid of Lieberman.

That idea makes a lot of people happy.
posted by flaterik at 10:55 PM on August 1, 2006


Compare this to the ease of exploiting the time-honoured system of bits of paper in feebly-locked ballot boxes, with fallible and bribeable humans counting them.

But every candidate's party can have human beings watch the boxes being filled, watch them being taken to the count, and watch the counting: you've got a complete, end-to-end assurance that the election is fair. You know when there is a problem because fixers have to physically get the boxes away from every other party for a period.

With an electronic version, the Computer Speaks. Who knows who told it what to say?
posted by alasdair at 11:33 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a fair amount of difference between Republicans and Democrats in the general population. But when it comes to politicians, I really don't see much difference at all.

I'm sorry, but if you believe this you really haven't been paying attention. I'll start with Supreme Court picks and leave the rest for you to discover...
posted by jalexei at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2006


So tell me again why these guys are so opposed to having paper voting receipts?

It's like Toyota saying their cars don't need seatbelts.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2006


So tell me again why these guys are so opposed to having paper voting receipts?

If I can't prove to you that I actually voted in the way you paid me to, why pay me to vote for your guy?

Likewise, secret voting makes it much harder for my boss to fire me because of the way I voted, or for my husband to beat me for it, or for my minister to shun, ridicule, or damn me for it.

Electronic voting is a solved problem. Use a voting machine to generate or fill in a paper ballot that then gets dumped anonymously into a box for later scanning. The downside is that it's more expensive than either filling in ballots by hand and scanning them, or using the vote machines to count. But it gets you the flexibility and usefulness of electronic voting machines and the security of paper ballots, and the voters don't take proof of how they voted home with them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:52 AM on August 2, 2006


Here's your litmus test, people.

If someone found this kind of stuff on the ATM you use all the time to do your banking, would you worry about someone stealing your money?

How about on your home computer? Or in your car? Or on your cell phone?
posted by zoogleplex at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2006


I tried having a conversation with my hardcore rightwing father about the total lack of security in electronic voting machines and was accused of being a delusional, paranoid Bush hater.

Projection, thy name is Republican.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:02 PM on August 2, 2006


I have heard, but been unable to verify, that the standard exit polling will NOT be used this coming election because the exit polls were proved so inaccurate in Ohio 2004. *ahem*

Does anyone know how to follow up on this rumor?

Also, greatly overlooked in these discussions are the central tabulating machines, also manufactured by Diebold, which would seem to be the most cost-effective targets in any fraud attempt.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:10 PM on August 2, 2006


poll workers took voting machines home with them before the election

Huh? What? "Hey, boss, me and the missus were thinking of having us a little referendum this weekend, think you could spare one of them new Votinator 3000s for a day or two?"

The lawsuit took specific aim at the practice of allowing poll workers to take the machines home with them prior to the election – a practice Haas said is done to ensure that polling places open on time.

Riiight. (And one does not "do" a practice, Union Tribune people.)
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:06 PM on August 2, 2006


I suspect the elections in the USA will become now, more than ever, a completely faux event. A staged play, where you common people think you are casting a vote, but in reality are merely wasting your time as the boys in the back rooms decide who's going to win.

The evidence of electoral fraud is overwhelming, and the gerrymandering of districts has been absurdly blatant. Frankly, I think you lost your democracy a while back.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 PM on August 2, 2006


We did, five; you're right.

We keep trying to tell them, but no one cares.
posted by baylink at 7:43 PM on August 2, 2006


It's not just the machines used either: NYT editorial today: ...Controlling the voting rolls can yield important advantages, as Ms. Harris proved in 2000. The Justice Department’s actions in Alabama appear to be less about enforcing the law than about wresting control of the voter rolls from the opposition party, and making a Democratic secretary of state who is up for re-election in a few months look bad.

It would not be the first time the Bush Justice Department seemed to play party politics with elections. Political appointees approved the pro-Republican Congressional redistricting plan in Texas and a voter ID law in Georgia, despite objections from staff lawyers that the plans violated the Voting Rights Act. ...

posted by amberglow at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2006


a perfect solution: Can’t we set them up to deliver a 100% Democratic vote? If nothing else, the election will be declared invalid and the machines possibly replaced by trackable paper ballots, like they use in civilized, free countries.
Think about it. If we want a more secure voting system, all we have to do is show that liberals are ready, willing and able to hack the vote!
Duh! (head slap)
(No, really, I was being facetious, honest! I think I was, anyway. But if you think about it, what are they going to say? “You guys couldn’t possibly have won, because we already rigged it in our favor”?)

posted by amberglow at 5:34 PM on August 3, 2006


The so-called "Battle of Athens" began Aug. 1, 1946, when veterans opened fire on the local jail to stop corrupt local officials from stealing an election.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:29 AM on August 4, 2006


empath writes "The solution will have to be a bunch of hackers getting together and agreeing to hack an election. Make it a shitty special election for city councilman or something, and make it very, incredibly mind blowingly obvious that it's been hacked. All one would have to do is volunteer to be a poll worker."

Nope, it needs to be really big, 95% of Texas going to the Communists would be about right.

zoogleplex writes "If someone found this kind of stuff on the ATM you use all the time to do your banking, would you worry about someone stealing your money?"

Slot machines are more secure than voting machines.
posted by Mitheral at 1:27 PM on August 8, 2006


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