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Diebold hacking in the flesh
September 19, 2006 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Ed Felten shows a hacked Diebold voting machine (youtubesday) in action, on Fox News of all places. Yeah, that Ed Felten.
posted by mathowie (72 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I am SO SURPRISED! Aren't you all surprised? I'm surprised...
posted by stenseng at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2006


That bit in the D of I about the right to bear arms - that's a hotfix, to protect against pre-Industrial Age "hacking".

That document nor any other can account for all possible political hacks that can occur in the Information Age. That's why the governmental process must be kept "retro" so the original patches will always apply.

That mean pen and paper, kids. No touchscreens.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2006


Who exactly has the contracting authority to buy Diebold machines? This is one area I'm not clear on. Is this a situation where the state legislature decides on automated voting, so the county commissioners look and can only find Diebold as a manufacturer?
posted by chef_boyardee at 1:48 PM on September 19, 2006


1. Put the virus out on the web so anyone can get it.
2. Explain how to infect a machine with it and set it up to vote for whoever you say.
3. Virus checks date and does whatever it's designer wants on election day.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2006


In Washington State, the Secretary of State's Elections Division tests and certifies various voting systems, and then provides the counties and other entities lists of approved gear they can choose from to purchase. YMMV in other states.
posted by stenseng at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2006


Clarification, it would ignore the settings the installer set and do whatever the original programmer wanted on election day.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:53 PM on September 19, 2006


Problem is, there are only a handful (like two or three) vendors out there for the big e-voting systems, and Diebold is the big dog on the block.
posted by stenseng at 1:53 PM on September 19, 2006


In Austin they use a local manufacture for their voting machines, Hart Intercivic, I think.
posted by Peter H at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2006


Stenseng, "YMMV" in other states? Eh?
posted by Chris Brummel at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2006


Diebold's response to the Princeton report. [pdf]
posted by gottabefunky at 2:04 PM on September 19, 2006


Yes - I'd imagine the process varies by state.
posted by stenseng at 2:04 PM on September 19, 2006


You could practially do this in flash in one day and have it be more secure. I get the feeling that Diebold's usually chosen for reasons other than it's security.
posted by hoborg at 2:05 PM on September 19, 2006


YMMV
posted by stenseng at 2:06 PM on September 19, 2006


There are two, and there's some crazy relation between them, like one of Diebold's VPs is the brother in law of the other one's president, or something like that.
posted by kenko at 2:06 PM on September 19, 2006


*its
posted by hoborg at 2:07 PM on September 19, 2006


"Every voter in every local jurisdiction that uses the AccuVote-TS should feel secure knowing that their vote will count on Election Day"*

*Disclaimer: Vote may not actually be counted for the candidate for which it was cast. Not valid in Texas.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:08 PM on September 19, 2006


Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is an American company that provides voting services. It was founded in 1996 as American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), it merged with Business Records Corp. the following year and changed its name to ES&S.

ES&S is a subsidiary of McCarthy Group Inc., which is jointly held by the holding firm and the Omaha World-Herald Co., the publisher of Nebraska's largest newspaper.

ES&S is one of the four largest voting companies used in the 2004 election. (Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart Intercivic)

Chuck Hagel was CEO of the company until shortly before his election to the United States Senate from Nebraska. The election was conducted almost exclusively on equipment provided by his former company.

The U.S. primary elections of March 2006 revealed an overextension of ES&S's resources when multiple counties across the nation found poor quality control (faulty memory cards), reported poor service, and problems with election preparation. Following harsh criticism of Diebold, ES&S has become the second major electronic voting vendor (after Diebold) to see lawsuits and criminal charges rising out of their failure to provide adequate service under their contracts. (see http://www.votersunite.org , http://www.votetrustusa.org/ , or http://www.bradblog.com for current lists of failures, lawsuits, investigations, and recommended changes)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ES%26S
posted by stenseng at 2:08 PM on September 19, 2006


In Austin they use a local manufacture for their voting machines, Hart Intercivic, I think.

Hart’s most politically charged investor is an arm of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, which was founded and is chaired by Tom Hicks. Hicks bought the Texas Rangers in 1999, making George W. Bush a millionaire 15 times over. Tom Hicks and his investment company are invested in Hart Intercivic through Stratford Capital. They are also heavily invested in Clear Channel Communications, the controversial radio-raider that muscled a thousand U.S. radio outlets into a
more conservative message. (4)
posted by Mr_Zero at 2:09 PM on September 19, 2006


ok, maybe i'll be a bit different when i watch the video, but i am a judge of election, and freshly trained on the diebold touchscreens.

with the machines we were using there was a physical tape that recorded votes, which was displayed to the voter. yeah, the software can be hacked, but if the voter pays attention, they will see the hack. if the machine is hacked to include the printer (ie print one thing, but record another) then the tape will not match with the electonic record.

but i haven't watched the video because i'm at work. and i know hacks can take place at higher levels ... but i was impressed with it's paper record.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 2:09 PM on September 19, 2006


Jumping on Mr_Zero's idea, may I suggest that anyone who decides to modify vote data (not that I would ever suggest that. It would be unethical...), make sure you choose a false canditate that is sure to make it clear that the votes coming from the machine are bullshit.

To that end, may I suggest all votes should go to Stephen Colbert. Failing that, how about Chuck Norris, or even better: Zombie Jesus.

Because Zombie Jesus has a platform I think we can all get behind.

Brains and Salvation

posted by quin at 2:11 PM on September 19, 2006


Anybody know if there have been any updates to this related story? (I tried but couldn't find anything newer than this link.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:15 PM on September 19, 2006


Diebold's Election Supply Online Shop is kinda interesting too, if you are into buying ... voting supplies?
posted by R. Mutt at 2:17 PM on September 19, 2006


The problem with paper ballots is the issue of spoiled ballots. Canada is usually cited as having very smooth running elections but occasionally there will be a case where there are just a dozen or so votes seperating two candidates and you have this long process with judges and lawyers arguing "That's an X" or "That's not an X".
posted by bobo123 at 2:20 PM on September 19, 2006


lester's sock puppet writes "with the machines we were using there was a physical tape that recorded votes, which was displayed to the voter."

This demo was with a machine that didn't produce a voter-verified paper record. The printer was used only to print the final results.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:26 PM on September 19, 2006


As much as I might distrust Diebold, their public response to this study (on quick read) raises some potentially credible points, and I am not sure if on this issue (and many others - truth be told) if the bs from both sides renders any truly meaningful conversation impossible.
posted by sfts2 at 2:28 PM on September 19, 2006


Bring back hanging chads
posted by Cranberry at 2:30 PM on September 19, 2006


(after reading the link mr_zero posted, i'm starting to wonder if there's anyone in the voting machine business without have close ties to bush or some other high-ranking republican. there must be at least one, right? right?)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:30 PM on September 19, 2006


I would expect anything related to the Omaha World Herald to have Republican ties.
posted by Cranberry at 2:33 PM on September 19, 2006


maybe it doesn't count your vote, but I hear that machine can play a mean PONG game


posted by matteo at 2:46 PM on September 19, 2006


I wonder if/when Felton will release a response to the response.
posted by brundlefly at 2:47 PM on September 19, 2006


And to think all they had to do was redesign the butterfly ballot.
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:48 PM on September 19, 2006


Is it that strange that this is on FOXNews when Democrats are now leading in midterm polls?

I like how in the 2004 election people were criticizing straw polls, "I don't understand there's never been this many, this wrong before."
posted by j-urb at 2:49 PM on September 19, 2006


I was so sure this was going to get called out as a dupe before I saw who posted it...
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on September 19, 2006


The basic and fundamental problem here is that people don't trust what they can't see. You can make an electronic voting machine that is provably secure, but how can you really prove it to someone who doesn't have a masters degree in electrical engineering. I can design a secure computer program, but I couldn't look at a circuit board and tell you if it was secure, if I had to guess I'd guess that it wasn't since just about every game console since the PS1 has had it's DRM cracked.

With a pen and paper you can feel it, you can see it, you know it exists, and can't be changed easily, unlike a set of bits and bytes on some ROM chip that can't be changed.

The diebold situation just makes this worse, because it's not secure. It can be reprogrammed easily, and the people working on the system obviously don't know what they're doing. They just built something that would "work" without worrying about how to make it perfect, which is what you need if you want people to feel secure.
posted by delmoi at 3:10 PM on September 19, 2006


I can't believe this aired on Fox. Strange. Also, shouldn't this post have been a comment in the last thread on this topic.
posted by chunking express at 3:16 PM on September 19, 2006


ok, maybe i'll be a bit different when i watch the video, but i am a judge of election, and freshly trained on the diebold touchscreens.

That is a different kind of machine, one with a paper trail, which is what people are asking for.
posted by delmoi at 3:16 PM on September 19, 2006


Honestly at this point I don't care. It's pretty clear that democracy is dead and that the vast majority of American citizens don't give a shit whether or not the elections are real or not. You could have a front page headline in every paper tomorrow that says "CONCLUSIVE PROOF THAT ELECTIONS STOLEN" and nothing would change. I encourge all technically minded liberals to just go ahead and see if they can manipulate the machines come election day, both as proof-of-concept and to reverse the plans of Diebold and the Republican Party. Fuck it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:19 PM on September 19, 2006 [3 favorites]


This showed on Fox so that when the elections don't go their way they can start the claims of a hacked election and once again divert the Fox news viewers attention.
posted by mss at 3:38 PM on September 19, 2006


Optimus raises an interesting point. What if headlines everywhere announced they had proof that the elections were rigged, and the courts and other checks were so corrupt that they ignored it (or powerless to do anything about it). Who do we turn to? John Titor style rural militias?
posted by Operation Afterglow at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


d4ng3r0us h4x0rz make a great alibi. except, sadly, none of them are republican.

why are these things not being reported?
posted by dminor at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2006


Bring back hanging chads.

I was always a dimpled chad guy myself. Say it to yourself a few times: dimpled chad, dimpled chad, dimpled chad. It'll bring a smile to your face.
posted by Kwine at 4:11 PM on September 19, 2006


lester's sock puppet

Can you tell us more? Let me elaborate:

but i haven't watched the video because i'm at work. and i know hacks can take place at higher levels ... but i was impressed with it's paper record.

A. The printer can print a ballot that differs from the vote it recorded

B. The print out only matters if the paper tape is counted. If it just provides a visual confirmation to the voter, then it simply helps hide the problem.

So, can you give more information about how the unit you tried works?

- Was the paper strip of votes securely collected, then ONLY the paper strips counted, and NEVER anything like the machine's internal tally of what it has printed being used?

- Were the strips securely collected, but would not be counted unless it was decided that the machine's records might have been tampered with?

- Were the paper strips just a visual confirmation for the voter, and not securely collected?
posted by -harlequin- at 4:15 PM on September 19, 2006


What if headlines everywhere announced they had proof that the elections were rigged, and the courts and other checks were so corrupt that they ignored it (or powerless to do anything about it). Who do we turn to? John Titor style rural militias?

I'd think that most people just continue life as best they can under a corrupt and abusive government, same as life in any other non-democratic country. The main difference being that people who have lived in those kind of places for longer, don't have hollywood illusions that a right to bear arms can offer any kind of real-world defense or answer to a corrupt government, but instead is a gift to them - citizen militias consolidate government power by providing them with something that can be played as an insideous threat to the nation, rallying people to support the government in this time of crisis and making it unpatriotic to question silly technicalities like rigged elections and corruption.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:28 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Surely this...

Granted, US elections are incomprehensibly complex. So fucking what?

Pencil and paper, independent and nonpartisan elections commission with bipartisan observers, and count the fucking things by hand. So what if it takes a little longer? Small price for, y'know, actually getting the government you voted for.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:58 PM on September 19, 2006


So what if it takes a little longer?

Actually, this would be a boon, not a problem. Half the problem is that people here expect the election to be decided by nightfall, which is long before voting irregularities can come to light, yet once it's decided, it's ten million times harder to change anything or do anything if there are suspicions.

If everyone knew ahead of time that the final results would take a couple of weeks, and parties were not expected to conceed until final results were in, half the problems just evaporate right there.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2006


If this is a computer virus, can there be a way to test the machine, akin to how Norton scans a disc on startup?
posted by Peter H at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2006


Amazing facts Re: American voting.

It's pretty fucking scary that you've allowed one family to control the votes for most of the country.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:54 PM on September 19, 2006


-harlequin- writes "If everyone knew ahead of time that the final results would take a couple of weeks, and parties were not expected to conceed until final results were in, half the problems just evaporate right there."

While we're at it, why not just let the election run a whole weekend? Let people vote Friday-Sunday.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:11 PM on September 19, 2006


If only all the people outraged would actually, y'know, VOTE.
posted by desuetude at 6:14 PM on September 19, 2006


These threads really bother me because the final redress to no-account elections is an armed populace in revolt. That would be an awful bloody mess.
posted by taosbat at 6:25 PM on September 19, 2006


Props to Operation Afterglow for the John Titor drop.
That sonofabitch just might be the real deal afterall.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 PM on September 19, 2006


So can anyone explain just how corrupt and undemocratic a country is that has these sorts of questionmarks hanging over its voting systems?

Why does this go on? It's truly moronic, you're the only country in the western world with these problems. It's really quite sad.
posted by wilful at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2006


-harlequin-

i saw the video. the machine there was different then the one i trained on.

a. it was totally different. when you finalized your vote, the tape printed up in such a way that the voter could view it through a window. that tape then went into a secured container--that is, a container that was sealed with a plastic numbered seal.

b. the system transfers data through a cartridge. the tape is transferred seperately in it's sealed container. in most cases, i'd assume that the tape would be used in a case of a recount or audit. we record the number of the seal on various documents, as well as sign the tape itself at the beginning and end of the election. both the cartridge and tape are taken to a collection site in seperate sealed pouches.

overall, when i realized i was going to be trained on a diebold machine, i wasn't too happy. but after learning how it works, i think it will be fine. i'm more worried about it crashing then someone hacking it. the polling place i'll be working at will have two types of machines--the other being an optical scanner of paper ballots. voters will be able to choose what kind of machine they want to use.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:44 PM on September 19, 2006


isn't this why you all get to keep the guns? get to work, noobs
posted by bonaldi at 7:47 PM on September 19, 2006


bobo123: The problem with paper ballots is the issue of spoiled ballots. Canada is usually cited as having very smooth running elections but occasionally there will be a case where there are just a dozen or so votes seperating two candidates and you have this long process with judges and lawyers arguing "That's an X" or "That's not an X".

Wuzzat? That doesn't even make sense. You mean a situation in which judges argue whether a ballot is spoiled or not? Sorry, but I don't recall any such situations coming up in any Canadian elections (which is not to say it hasn't happened). In a federal election, a seat may be contested, but it's not as though that leaves everyone wondering who the PM is.

I think paper ballots are totally the way to go, and all this Diebold business is only reinforcing that conclusion. If a paper ballot election were to mean waiting a day or two for a final result, so what? Surely that's better than not being sure whether the election winner is the person in charge?
posted by stinkycheese at 7:56 PM on September 19, 2006


Go Sequoia, forget Diebold

All Nevada counties will begin using Sequoia Voting Systems electronic voting machines by the September 2004 elections, Secretary of State Dean Heller announced Wednesday.

Only Clark County, which is home to 70 percent of the state's population, currently uses Sequoia machines for elections.

Heller said he was persuaded that Sequoia offers superior machines because of a Gaming Control Board electronic division test that found machines offered by a competitor, Diebold, represented a "legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process."

He added that Clark County has used Sequoia machines since 1994 without any problems.

posted by SirOmega at 8:11 PM on September 19, 2006


Is the key story really true? ... The access panel door on a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine — the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus — can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet....A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars. It’s a standard part, and like most standard parts it’s easily purchased on the Internet. ...
posted by amberglow at 8:40 PM on September 19, 2006


Following up to SirOmega: How to Steal an Election

How sad is it that Vegas, home of the-house-always-wins gaming and fake tits, has the most reliable voting machines?
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:15 PM on September 19, 2006


if the bs from both sides renders any truly meaningful conversation impossible.
posted by sfts2 at 2:28 PM PST


VS the negative effects on the Republic if the votes can be cooked?

Yea....makes perfect sense. Because there are conflicting statements, lets ignore the issue.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2006


You mean a situation in which judges argue whether a ballot is spoiled or not? Sorry, but I don't recall any such situations coming up in any Canadian elections (which is not to say it hasn't happened).

Specifically the Mario Silva vs Tony O'Donohue situation, from an old usenet post Toronto, Ont. - While joblessness is at an all-time high and welfare cuts are rampant, Tony O'Donohue is fighting to regain the city council seat in ward 3, no matter what it costs the taxpayers. O'Donohue's opponent, Mario Silva, had been declared the winner by 15 votes and has been serving on the council since November 14, 1994. A recount by city officials placed O'Donohue in front by 9 votes and a judicial review left O'Donohue ahead by 6 votes. That was overturned by Mr. Justice Blenus Wright, of Ontario Court, who put Silva back in the lead by 10 votes. City officials estimate it could cost taxpayers up to $300,000 to pay lawyers for the two rival politicians. Let us eat cake, eh, Tony?

I remember news reports from them were reporters would cite things like a ballot with an X printed very faintly, so that there was some debate wether it was blank or not, and ballots that had things that were sorta an X.

And I recall a similar controversy over the counting of votes during the Quebec referendum, but in that situation it was allegated that ballots were wrongly rejected that supported the winning side, so it wasn't a huge issue. Anyway my point was that paper ballots can bring up a lot of problems as well if the result is close.
posted by bobo123 at 10:18 PM on September 19, 2006


Does anyone have the 2004 evidence for districts "voting" for Bush despite exit polling favoring Kerry outside of the margin of error, and which machines were used? I remember seeing it back in the day, but I'm too exhausted and drained to seem to be able to find it now. I remember that it was pretty damning for Diebold, or would have been in a democracy that wasn't 100% controlled by the benefacting party.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2006


The voting machine problems are an obvious problem with the American voting process, but equally hackable, and far less prone to scrutiny are the machines upon which compilations are done. There's little point in hacking dozens or hundreds of individual voting machines, if you can tilt the results in the vote accumulation and reporting stage of an election, where fewer people and machines are involved. When an election is fixed, and many probably are, vote accumulation and reporting is generally where it is done.

What's still amazing to me is that 6 years after the debacle of the 2000 election, technical standards for end-to-end voting system certification are still in flux. Here in Florida, the Florida Voting Systems Standards act (link to 65 page PDF file) is the regularly "updated" political laugh riot that sets out state "standards" for voting system performance. Among other things, it specifies that to be certified, voting system suppliers provide their source code for programs contained in the voting system, in a form that allows Florida officials to read the source code on MS-DOS or Microsoft Windows computers.

I'm not kidding.

Statewide turnout in the recent primaries was so light, election officials in Tallahassee blamed everything from rainy weather to public cynicism for the low vote totals. But Katherine Harris staged a miraculous come-from-behind primary victory in her quest for a Senate seat. Her stellar political career is a clear sign to all civic minded citizens that attention to fair elections is a hallmark of dedicated public servants.
posted by paulsc at 11:44 PM on September 19, 2006


Among other things, it specifies that to be certified, voting system suppliers provide their source code for programs contained in the voting system, in a form that allows Florida officials to read the source code on MS-DOS or Microsoft Windows computers.

Wouldn't that just be "any ASCII file with MSDOS/Windows linebreaks instead of unix linebreaks"?

Why does that merit an "I'm not kidding"?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2006


Navelgazer: Research papers on recent voting discrepencies
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:09 AM on September 20, 2006


ROU_Xenophobe, this may come under the heading of explaining a joke, in that doing so pretty much drains the punchline of effect, but here goes:

If they'd of specified a file format, such as you have, that could be read by MS-DOS or Windows and perhaps other operating systems with appropriate reader applications, that would have been conventional open bidding standards for computer system software. But they didn't bother to do that, they actually state that the source files must be readable on MS-DOS or Windows machines. That, in a document that is supposedly setting technical standards for test and acceptance of millions of dollars worth of computer systems for use in the most fundemental process of a democratic republic.

It's a remarkably braindead, non-transparent way of marking the sophistication of the specifier, much more so than it does that of the system being specified.

Hence, my "I'm not kidding" remark...
posted by paulsc at 6:11 AM on September 20, 2006


yeah, amberglow, the key story is true. the cards and whatnot that are inside the panel are also covered with numbered seals, so a judge would know they were messed with.

paulc's first paragraph is what i would percieive as the greatest threat to an election.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:32 AM on September 20, 2006


Vote with a bullet. Meaning shoot the Diebold machine.

/I have a Diebold safe that is quite secure.
posted by Balisong at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2006


Slightly off topic: Why do news shows like the one in the video rush the guest off the show when he's demonstrating something as important as this? 3 minutes to let you know that the President might not have been the droid we voted for? What's the big hurry, so you can break for commercial and show us the weather for the third time that hour?

Not only did the poor guy not have any time to show the hack, but the two nerds didnt have a chance to explain how they programmed the "virus".

"Jesus Christ has been our guest today. Jesus please explain why you came down from Heaven to pay for our sins, and while you're at it, please tell us the meaning of life. Quickly now, we have only one minute left."
posted by tsarfan at 7:54 AM on September 20, 2006


Optimus raises an interesting point. What if headlines everywhere announced they had proof that the elections were rigged, and the courts and other checks were so corrupt that they ignored it (or powerless to do anything about it). Who do we turn to? John Titor style rural militias?

I am so glad I'm not the only one who's been thinking about that guy lately.
posted by EarBucket at 9:07 AM on September 20, 2006


LET AMERICA VOTE ACT (EMERGENCY PAPER BALLOT MANDATE OF 2006)
posted by amberglow at 3:26 PM on September 20, 2006


If only voting machines were as secure as slot machines.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on September 20, 2006


I encourge all technically minded liberals to just go ahead and see if they can manipulate the machines come election day, both as proof-of-concept and to reverse the plans of Diebold and the Republican Party. Fuck it.

Optimus Chyme,

I don't think ALL Republicans like Diebold. Gov. Ehrlich has been against electronic voting (i.e. Diebold) in Maryland pretty much since he was elected (partially on votes collected on Diebold machines). He questioned the security of the Diebold systems after being made governor (and when the JHU student(?) released his findings about Diebold voting machines), but was immediately attacked by a group of Democrats in the state legislature who said his actions were (in paraphrase) "politically motivated to embarrass the Democrats who chose Diebold." (Thankfully, my delegate, Carol Petzold, was not one of these unreasonable Democrats, and vowed to stay out of that fight after I linked her to the information from JHU.)

Anyway, maybe the Republicans and Diebold are in cahoots in some places, but I would argue very strongly that it's not happening that way in Maryland at all. And if there's any state the GOP would want to win, it's Maryland, since the last time a GOP governor sat in the State House before Ehrlich was something like 50 years ago (Spiro Agnew)...
posted by bugmuncher at 12:46 AM on September 22, 2006


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