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September 23, 2004 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Monkey hacks Diebold voting machine. Really.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (68 comments total)
I say a monkey that smart can vote. Or run for office.
posted by fenriq at 8:15 PM on September 23, 2004

...and you should see that little fc*ker with a typewriter.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:15 PM on September 23, 2004

So...is this a good reason to vote by absentee ballot?
posted by bitpart at 8:18 PM on September 23, 2004

This is truly astonishing--the fact that there's no oversight or accountability, and that it's so incredibly easy to delete/change/etc voting records is unbelievable. And it's astonishing that Fox showed it, too, unless they're reassuring their viewers that what happened in 2000 re: voter suppression is even easier now.
posted by amberglow at 8:23 PM on September 23, 2004

"Quite honestly it's somewhat insulting to elections officials and volunteers," he said to the idea that elections officers would tamper with vote results.

Oh, well, we wouldn't want to be rude.
posted by ook at 8:30 PM on September 23, 2004

This is truly insane - while the american media pours over the minutae of what the candidates may or may not have had for breakfast 30-odd years ago, the very legitimacy of american democracy is at risk. The point is, if the *voters* can't be assured of the *fairness* of the election, then there is no legitimacy. The key word here is transparency - the system of voting, and of course, counting the votes, must not only be fair, but it must be visibly and obviously fair; that is, the average citizen must be able to see that his or her vote is counted - that's what the whole scrutineering process is all about. But proprietary voting machine technology, with no possiblity of recounting or auditing, is profoundly lacking in transparency. If this software is used to count the votes in November, and Bush wins, sizable portions of the US population are going to assume fraud, and no one will be able to convince them otherwise - because there will be *no evidence* one way or another.
posted by dinsdale at 8:35 PM on September 23, 2004

bitpart ... at some point downstream, even absentee ballots have to be entered electronically. About the only virtue is that a paper trail will remain. Not sure that'd do much good. They'd just adjust the "skewed" vote to cancel out the absentees anyway. (And I'm an optimist.)

I'm thinking it would be funny if there was a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) online movement to convince EVERYONE to ONLY vote with absentee ballots. It would be a symbolic gesture, but I bet it'd stir things up. I'd volunteer to set up a website, but I suspect "happytrails.com" has already been registered. ;)
posted by RavinDave at 8:36 PM on September 23, 2004

Now if we can just teach an American voter how to hack his banana pellets out of that fucker, we're all set.
posted by stonerose at 8:45 PM on September 23, 2004

This kind of thing totally reinforces peoples' cynicism about the whole process too. I can't say i blame them.
posted by amberglow at 8:46 PM on September 23, 2004

Huh. So the Republicans found a way to take the election without any lawyers. Thank you Bush supporter Diebold!
posted by eyeballkid at 8:47 PM on September 23, 2004

Which Chimp?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:50 PM on September 23, 2004

Hmm... how do I put this... ah yes... OH, FUCK!
posted by squirrel at 9:03 PM on September 23, 2004

A planet where apes evolved from American voters?
posted by trondant at 9:09 PM on September 23, 2004

Didn't we already elect a chimp? It was that nice actor with the slicked back hair from... where was it again?...
posted by muppetboy at 9:18 PM on September 23, 2004

Didn't we already elect a chimp?

That's no chimp!
posted by homunculus at 9:35 PM on September 23, 2004

November's gonna be a monkey circlejerk. [nsfw, probably. and sound]
posted by dobbs at 9:45 PM on September 23, 2004

Well, this confirms what I've been saying all these years...

Fucking monkeys.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:51 PM on September 23, 2004

I'm voting absentee. I hope a lot of people do the same.
posted by melissa may at 10:05 PM on September 23, 2004

The President of America looks like a chimp.

I should write for Alf because I'm a funny guy.

They still make Alf, right?
posted by holloway at 10:18 PM on September 23, 2004

Time to start stocking up on canned goods and assault rifles....
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:26 PM on September 23, 2004

Monkeys. Hacking the vote.

Bwaahaha hahahaha hahahahah .... sob.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:30 PM on September 23, 2004

Fyi, RavinDave, Oregon already has the *massive* absentee ballot scheme. We went to vote by mail in 1998 (or was it 2000? Never can remember...) and it makes life hell for reporting elections because everything has to be done three weeks earlier in print so people get all the information. But I guess it's easier on the general populace in the state.

Oh, and on preview, monkeys.
posted by Happydaz at 11:19 PM on September 23, 2004

I'm befuddled by anyone who smugly crosses his arms and says, "well, I'm voting absentee." Americans are often self-interested to the point where they don't recognize their points of common reliance, (i.e. public schools, public health, the environment.) We're going to get exactly the government we deserve. With no reach-around and no kiss goodnight.
posted by squirrel at 11:47 PM on September 23, 2004

If these machines are so easy to hack, then why not hack the machines at the forthcoming election. Let the ratio of your preference to the other candidates be something like 1:pi, and after everyones safely in office, anonymously leak what you did. Diebold's gonna have a difficult time proving that this ratio is a fluke, and the question of voter rigging will be settled once and for all.
posted by seanyboy at 12:20 AM on September 24, 2004

Ah, Seanyboy - didn't really read the article, did you? Or people's comments?

It's not about whether you or I can go to one of these machines and fix the vote - it's whether after the votes have been cast, those (currently) in power can alter the outcome. The machines aren't "easy to hack" from the terminal, but the results are trivially easy to fix (allegedly) from the controlling computer, and after the fact.

Now, you may have enough trust and faith that this won't happen, and the election officials may see even the mention of such a thought as frightfully bad form, but unless it's impossible to do, can you, or anyone else, be sure that the result that's announced is the correct and valid one? Truly?
posted by benzo8 at 12:53 AM on September 24, 2004

What's that idea I've always heard? That if you put a 100 monkeys in a room, each with a typewriter? Oh yeah... that eventually they'll write the Patriot Act.
posted by Peter H at 1:07 AM on September 24, 2004

t's not about whether you or I can go to one of these machines and fix the vote
I'm aware of how it works, and I'm also sure that access to the controlling computer is available to people other that GW Bush.
posted by seanyboy at 2:15 AM on September 24, 2004

See, the fact that the highest official in the 2000 Florida election was also the co-chair of the Bush campaign in Florida should make it perfectly clear about the danger of election results being able to be altered by elections officials (or, it should be noted, employees of Diebold, who are usually on hand with full access to the computers during the election for troubleshooting).
posted by sycophant at 2:39 AM on September 24, 2004

The Diebold central tabulators use a program called "GEMS" that saves vote totals in Microsoft Access, a Windows-based database program.

OMG. WTF. etc.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:02 AM on September 24, 2004

"I'm also sure that access to the controlling computer is available to people other that GW Bush." - Like, I suppose, trusty Diebold officials ?

These characters have a proven, trusty track record of installing trusty State-unapproved mystery meat software on their voting machines (see link) in clear violation of voting laws.

So then, I guess the election is in good hands then.

posted by troutfishing at 4:07 AM on September 24, 2004

"some computer scientists fear more trouble with electronic ballots. With almost one in 10 registered voters using touch-screen machines that don't automatically produce paper printouts, they say a legitimate recount would prove impossible.

County registrars and executives at the companies that sell and update the electronic voting machines say scientists' concerns are overblown and irresponsible." - Damn scientists, they're always such negative ninnys.

Or was that nervous nellies ?

Nattering nabobs ?
posted by troutfishing at 4:19 AM on September 24, 2004

We're going to get exactly the government we deserve. With no reach-around and no kiss goodnight.


Remember what Stalin said about voting and counting votes.

Stalag, gulag, Gitmo.
Mallkin is already laying the groundwork politically for a comprehensive gulag system while FEMA draws up the physical plans. Anyone want to argue with Ashcroft?

Election 2004 - the last vote you'll ever have to cast.

"It'd be a lot easier if this were a dictatorship." - GWB
posted by nofundy at 4:54 AM on September 24, 2004

Damned, dirty apes.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on September 24, 2004

nofundy - Rex '84 ?

Foxspeak : A nephritic necklacing neufchatel of negativity nauseates the nation - truth is elsewhere.
posted by troutfishing at 5:23 AM on September 24, 2004

Don't forget about ES&S, another voting machine company, who, together with Diebold, will be counting something like %80 of the votes in this country this election.
Diebold and ES&S are owned by two brothers, Bob and Todd Urosevich.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:37 AM on September 24, 2004

That's it trout.
Resurrected shortly after 9/11.
Now, the prize goes to the person who can name the contractor awarded this plum!
It's really too easy a guess.
posted by nofundy at 6:10 AM on September 24, 2004

Halliburton or Kellog Root Brown?

Aren't there laws stating you can ask for a paper ballot when voting? (like for disabled people, etc?) Maybe people should do that on Election Day.
posted by amberglow at 6:30 AM on September 24, 2004

"Damned, dirty apes."

No, no, no.

OK, partial credit.

Take your hands off my democracy, you damned dirty apes!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2004

Yes, yes, it's a democratic republic. We know. Don't be such a fucking pedant.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:40 AM on September 24, 2004

Perhaps the House of Representatives should just pass a law that says no can question the results of an election? Kinda like the one they just wrote that proposes to forbid federal courts (including the Supreme Court) from hearing ANY case about the Pledge of Allegiance and the removal of "under god."

So about this freedom we are fighting for...
posted by terrapin at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2004

Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's not get all alarmist here.

"Monkey hacks Diebold voting machine." Really? No, not really.

Folks, it was an ape, a higher primate, that hacked the machine. Not a monkey, a lower primate, fer chrissake.

So, sure, a chimp can do this, most certainly a gorilla, probably your odd orangutan, mayyyyybe a gibbon. But a baboon? Well, OK, probably a baboon, those things are pretty crafty. But, like, a lemur or a spider monkey? No, not in a thousand... OK, less than a thousand years, but it would probably take them too long to get it done before the election was certified.

So relax, everybody.
posted by soyjoy at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2004

We don't have time to follow the Consitutional process.
Damn the Constitution!
We must have an immediate ruling from Scalia!
(right media? nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

I just love how that worked out so well in 2000. If you can steal it once, why not twice?

"I will do everything within my power to deliver the vote for George W. Bush" - Diebold's CEO
posted by nofundy at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2004

Paper ballots and pencils, people. It's not that complicated. If it's good enough for us up here in Soviet Canuckistan, it's good enough for you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2004

Obligatory Stalin quote:

"It's not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes."
posted by wsg at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2004

So, according to the site, this event happened this past Wednesday (the 22nd). There's no follow-up on blackboxvoting.org. Anyone know how it went?
posted by mkultra at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2004

The Card Cheat:
It seems from previous threads that so many officers and propositions are on the ballot that only weird machines and dodgy software can count the ballots in most of the states - you know, where they elect the local deputy under-sherriff, the secretary to the PTA and the dog-catcher.

So, a surfeit of democracy in America is the thing that undermines ... er, American democracy.

O, the irony. Alanis would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead. Which she should be, for that song alone.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:07 AM on September 24, 2004

O, the irony. Alanis would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead.

... and understood what irony meant.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:42 AM on September 24, 2004

So...is this a good reason to vote by absentee ballot?

Well, it's apparently better than a chimpanzee ballot

(ducks from pies)
posted by Peter H at 9:27 AM on September 24, 2004

What about those chickens at county fairs that play tic-tac-toe? Could they hack this voting machine?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2004

You are all getting your panties in a twist for no good reason. Election commissions do not employ apes or monkeys. So our vote is safe.
posted by adamrice at 10:02 AM on September 24, 2004

What about those chickens at county fairs that play tic-tac-toe?

Now that's just an absurd question. Listen up, and listen good: NO BIRDS WHATSOEVER would be able to figure these things out, all right? ONLY higher primates and a handful of lower primates.

And OK, a few marsupials. But that's IT!!!
posted by soyjoy at 10:19 AM on September 24, 2004

And rodents!

Also: people; streets; marching in protest... what's missing here?
posted by squirrel at 10:42 AM on September 24, 2004

and dolphins too, i bet. and piglets. and those evil koalas.

(altho this really isn't funny)
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2004

Where are our strident MeFi posters that always chime in to scream about the liberal content of various posts? This is a fairly non-partisan issue, and if certain posters -- who I will not name -- are so interested in politics, you'd think they would comment on this thread. They seem nowhere to be found, however.
posted by deanc at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2004


posted by loquacious at 12:37 PM on September 24, 2004

G*d F**king D**n!!!
Why the friggen hell do we need to spend so much (%^$&)(!!! money on such a poor system? Optical scanners with decent ballot layout provides electronic tabulation, paper trail, not a breeze to hack... and as it is non Windblows software so you have a decent chance of the system not crashing midway through the process and loosing all your data.
On a related note, just how many people in the country CAN vote by absentee? In MN you have to be ABSENT to vote absentee, but in my county Bush/Cheney have been flooding people with absentee ballots, so much so the county is have trouble verifying that these people qualify to vote as such... And why the hell is Bush and co doing this here? Where there is no Diabold (intentional misspelling so don't jump on me) system, nor has there been any indication of suspicious voting fraud etc. IMO in national elections there should be a standard form and method of counting throughout the whole system, instead of all these multiple methods and problems. christ!
posted by edgeways at 1:31 PM on September 24, 2004


This is like in the early days of e-commerce, where people were afraid of giving out their credit cards to certain vendor in fear of credit card fraud, and complained that the system is not secure enough, whereas they wouldn't think twice about using their credit cards in an utterly unsecured system such as handing them to a minimum wage earner at a restaurant. The standard of security shouldn't jump by orders of magnitude just because something is done electronically.

Technology doesn't produce fraud; people produce fraud. The election is a process run by people. Having these machines does not make it any easier to rig the votes than before. If these people were going to rig them, they were going to rig them anyway. Technology is never a tool to enforce enthics.

Why is it that whenever we make the change from manual to automatic systems, the standard of measure leaps from "good enough" to "100% fool-proof"?
posted by VeGiTo at 1:35 PM on September 24, 2004

Is it really that bad? Yes, it's really that bad. Electronic voting isn't (IMHO) necessarily bad, but the implementations we're being conned into using are. I've been following the issue online for the last few years, but I recently read Bev Harris' book, and having all the evidence in one place really makes it clear what a thoroughly rotten setup electronic voting is. It's not just the 2000 election and it's not just Florida. The book is loaded with references and citations; you don't have to take her word for it, either. (You can read it online, or try your library, or Powell's, or Amazon, or...)
posted by hattifattener at 2:09 PM on September 24, 2004

"100% fool-proof"?

Uh, I think something a monkey chimpanzee can hack falls substantially below 100%. It also falls below "good enough."
posted by soyjoy at 2:13 PM on September 24, 2004

VeGiTo, you are completely wrong.

The standard of security shouldn't jump by orders of magnitude just because something is done electronically.
Yes it should, because the expenditure required for successful fraud has been reduced by orders of magnitude. The very features of computerized systems that make them more efficient make them better targets for fraud. It's all about ROI.

If you want to rig a great number of paper ballots, you need a lot of people in on it. If you want to rig electronic ballots,* you do not.

Furthermore, in this particular case, some of the most grevious vulnerabilities are in the central vote tabulating machines. That's akin to a hacker getting access to a company's entire database of CC#s. (Which, in fact happens all the time, and is the main source of card fraud, iirc.)

Anyone who has been following this story closely will see there is a) massive vote fraud in the works or b) criminal incompetence that could easily, easily facilitate massive vote fraud.

The fact that after so many demonstrated vulnerabilities, we are still proceeding with the same vendors is incredible.

*there have been proposed electronic voting protocols that would actually increase the security of the process. Sadly, they are unlikely to be implemented anytime soon.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2004

VeGiTo: nobody ever stole a million credit card numbers at one go before people started storing them on poorly-secured web servers. Sure, it's generally humans who make the mistakes, not the computers; but a computer lets a human make the same mistake (or perpetrate the same fraud) on a scale thousands of times larger than they would have been able to accomplish unaided.

The standard of security shouldn't jump by orders of magnitude just because something is done electronically.

No, but it should jump by orders of magnitude just because something is done automatically. Speeding up the process means less oversight; less oversight means mistakes/frauds take longer to notice and have more dramatic consequences when discovered. The standard of security should definitely go up for every new generation of faster, more automatic systems.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2004

These machines, I am sure that they tabulate votes honestly and are completely secure. Everyone really does just want to "help america vote." After all, we wouldn't want them to cast their votes the wrong way and give Al Quaeda what they want, would we?

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. -- Voltaire
posted by jester69 at 3:25 PM on September 24, 2004

yikes - "Technology doesn't produce fraud; people produce fraud" And people kill people, right? Does it make a difference if they use a hunting knife or a tactical nuke? Because this problem has the capability to "nuke" the trust that Americans have in their democratic processes.

Nice of you to bring up electronic banking - do you suppose anyone would design an online banking system that has no ability to be audited? Or that if a vendor of such a system was confronted with obvious flaws, they would stonewall and come off all indignant at the very idea that anyone would suggest any impropriety?

(from the Fox link: "Quite honestly it's somewhat insulting to elections officials and volunteers," [the Diebold spokesman] said to the idea that elections officers would tamper with vote results.)

Election officials are in the *trust industry* - if significant groups of people (like, say, every computer scientist in the world) don't trust the system then the system is poorly designed - why the hell do you think we have secret ballots? Because if we didn't, individuals may be subject to pressures and threats to vote a certain way. Why do you have to verify your identity in order to vote? Because if you didn't, vote-buying would be relatively easy and probably not even that expensive. If the designer of a voting system came out said we didn't have to worry about these issues because it's insulting to the voters to suggest they could commit fraud, how would that go over with you?

Not meaning to pick on you personally, but the point is that the designers and builders of systems on which our whole way of life depends should be bending over backwards to demonstrate the fairness and openness of the system, not acting insulted.

and thanks for the Schneier link - good one.
posted by dinsdale at 3:45 PM on September 24, 2004

Speaking of banking, were you aware that Diebold makes ATMs?

The interesting thing here is that Diebold actually knows how to make secure systems. Why they chose not to in this case...
posted by alex_reno at 4:40 PM on September 24, 2004

I was intrigued by the claim you would have to be present at the central tabulating computer to hack this system. Not sure that's true. In my state, the elections office take over the State House chambers election night to tabulate votes. They have all their computer equipment on the chamber floor, with press and campaign people watching from the seats. I think all you really need to do is get access to a tabulating computer at some point before the election. Security will be fairly tight during the election, but who watches computer storerooms in the months leading up to it? Stick in a wireless card. The computers used are desktop. No one on the elections staff would bother looking inside it. I am not a programmer or hacker, but I think it would be possible to write something to let the wireless card operate in the background, without letting computer users know it. Then just have someone with a laptop pretend to be part of the press, watching the election, and when the tally is ready, hack in and voila, Ralph Nader wins Texas.
posted by MetalDog at 4:41 PM on September 24, 2004

Well sure there are naysayers, but i'm sure that nobody who uses Microsoft Access on a daily basis is at all concerned. We know just how dependable it is!
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2004

dinsdale, great post. You echo my sentiments, with cherries on top.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2004

(alex_reno: why yes, Diebold makes ATMs.)
posted by hattifattener at 9:16 PM on September 24, 2004

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