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Old 01-22-04   #1
John Preston
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They're Preparing to Stuff the Ballot

Risks Seen in Pentagon's Internet Voting Plan
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government should abandon an Internet-voting system planned by the Pentagon (news - web sites) because hackers could easily tamper with election results, several computer-science professors said on Wednesday.

Military personnel and other U.S. citizens located overseas will be able to cast their ballots online for some primary and general elections this year under the Defense Department's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, rather than casting absentee ballots by mail.

But their votes could be vulnerable to a range of cyber attacks that have already rocked banks, Internet providers and other businesses that operate online, said four researchers who serve on an advisory panel for the program.

Hackers could knock vote-tallying computers offline with a flood of data in "denial of service" attacks; set up phony Web pages to intercept or alter votes; or spread a virus to participants' computers to monitor or alter their voters, the researchers said.

"Because the danger of successful large-scale attacks is so great, we reluctantly recommend shutting down the development of SERVE and not attempting anything like it in the future until both the Internet and the world's home-computer infrastructure have been fundamentally redesigned, or some other unforeseen security breakthroughs appear," they said.

The Pentagon has no intention of shutting down the program, a spokesman said. "Security is enhanced, procedures are in place. I don't know them all and I wouldn't share them if I did," said Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood.

Flood noted the four researchers who authored the report were not joined by the six other experts who served on the advisory panel.

The report was written by Johns Hopkins professor Avi Rubin; University of California professor David Wagner; David Jefferson, a computer scientist at the Livermore National Laboratory; and computer consultant Barbara Simons.
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Old 01-22-04   #2
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Pentagon's Online Voting Program Deemed Too Risky
By Dan Keating, Washington Post Staff Writer

A Pentagon (news - web sites) program for Internet voting in this year's presidential election is so insecure that it could undercut the integrity of American democracy and should be stopped immediately, according to computer-security specialists who were asked to review the $22 million pilot plan intended for about 100,000 overseas voters.

The critical report released yesterday is intended to halt the momentum building for national Internet voting as the least expensive and most convenient way to upgrade election technology that was exposed as unreliable in 2000.

"It's not possible to create a secure voting system with off-the-shelf PCs using Microsoft Windows and the current Internet," said Avi Rubin, an associate professor of computer science and the technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

He and Barbara Simons, a retired researcher from International Business Machines Corp., said their biggest fear is that this year's experiment would be a hit, leading to widespread Internet voting for the 2008 presidential election. That is when the kind of Internet attack they envision could emerge, possibly from foreign subversives.

"History has shown that when people have the opportunity to tamper with an election they do," said Rubin, noting that the Internet is rife with viruses and worms even when there is no incentive for an attack.

The threat to the current election is great enough that the program should be shut down immediately, said Ruvin, Simons and the other two other scientists who released a report yesterday, David Wagner, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, and David Jefferson of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Pentagon's Federal Voting Assistance Program was created in 1986 to help military personnel stationed overseas vote. It also serves civilian Americans living abroad. Yesterday, a Pentagon spokesman defended the pilot program.

"The concern for security is a good thing, and we respect what they've done," Glenn Flood said. "But we think the thing will be secure, and security will continue to be enhanced. We're not going to stop it."

Supporters say the pilot for military, government and private citizens abroad is important to learn the right way to gather electronic votes and to help overseas voters who often have trouble casting their ballots. The chance of a security threat has to be weighed against the knowledge gained and the improved voting access for those people, said R. Michael Alvarez, co-director of the CalTech-MIT Voting Technology Project and co-author of "Point, Click and Vote," a recent book about online voting.

"There's a widespread perception that Internet voting is going to happen at some time," he said. "As scientists, we'd like to lay out some kind of rational path that leads from punch cards and lever machines to that logical future."

Britain and Switzerland are experimenting with Internet voting, and the Michigan Democratic Party cited the Pentagon effort as a reason for running its own online voting program in this year's caucuses, which are Feb. 7. The authors of the report, which did not review Michigan's system, said any Internet voting would be open to fraud.

Alvarez got a $1.8 million Pentagon grant to study the Internet voting experiment. He invited critics such as Ruvin -- who had already published a paper critical of Internet voting -- to participate in the review. "It's a democracy. Debate is critical. We brought in these people now because we want that feedback," Alvarez said.

The four authors of yesterday's criticism were among 10 researchers involved in the review. Alvarez said he planned a report from the entire group after the election, when the system's performance can be gauged.

The Pentagon pilot includes 50 counties in seven states that volunteered: Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. South Carolina's Feb. 3 primary will make it the first state to try the system. Hawaii's chief elections officer, Dwayne Yoshina, said he has read the report and intends to stick with the program for a September primary and the November election.

The system is expected to be used for requesting absentee ballots and casting them in presidential primaries and the fall election, said Meg McLaughlin, president of Accenture eDemocracy Services, the contractor building the system.

"There's nothing in the report that is new to us," she said. "There's nothing that we didn't address."

McLaughlin said she was surprised that the critics would not want the experiment to run through the election to learn from it.

But Simons said that calling the program an experiment ignores the fact that voters will be casting votes that will count. If there is a question about the legitimacy of those votes, she said, the election could be undermined. It is no favor to overseas voters to let them think they have cast ballots when they have been fleeced, she said.

Supporters note that the late-arriving overseas ballots contributed to the 2000 Florida ballot fiasco. That election led to calls for better voting systems and better ways to collect ballots from citizens abroad.
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Old 01-22-04   #3
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I read one good idea in an article were it suggested to get a vote reciept, showing time, date, canadite voted for and the location were said vote was placed in order to help insure that the vote is recorded properly.
de vagorum ordine dico vobis iura
fatue fatue
quid prodest tibi laborare
[hildegard von bingen - ordo virtutum]
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Old 02-01-04   #4
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Md. Vote Machines Flawed, Consultant Says
By TOM STUCKEY, Associated Press Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Computers that Maryland voters will use in the March primary contain "vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious individuals," according to programmers who tested the equipment.

Hackers could easily compromise 16,000 touch-screen computers in precincts statewide, Michael Wertheimer of RABA Technologies told a state legislative committee on Thursday.

RABA's report, which focused on hardware, is the latest study by computer scientists to conclude that electronic systems pose significant security risks.

Dozens of states are rushing to replace punch-card and lever systems with modern voting equipment to qualify for federal matching funds through the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

Maryland is spending $55.6 million to move toward an entirely electronic system that does not provide traditional paper ballots that could be used in case of a recount.

A team assembled by Columbia-based RABA conducted an exercise Jan. 19 to simulate an attack on Maryland's touch-screens, built by North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold Inc.

Members found that individual machines could be disabled by jamming a voter card into a terminal or lifting it up and pulling out wires. The team guessed passwords on the cards that were needed to access the machines, and found the passwords were contained in the source code of the computers.

The team also said the computer server that tabulates election results did not have security updates from Microsoft Corp. Team members were able to break into the server remotely via dial-up modem.

Wertheimer said he was surprised that each of Maryland's machines has two identical locks, which could be opened by any one of the 32,000 keys. The report also stated it was easy to pick the locks.

Bob Urosevich, president of Diebold Election Systems, focused on the positive aspects of the report, which stated that major software changes were "not needed" before the March primary.

The RABA report confirms "the accuracy and security of Maryland's voting procedures and our voting systems as they exist today," Urosevich said in a statement. "With that said ... there will always be room for improvement and refinement."

RABA recommended liberal use of tamper tape, including inside and outside two locked boxes on each machine. The tape would show if someone had broken into, or attempted to break into, a machine. RABA also suggested each voting machine have a different password.

Linda Lamone, administrator of the State Board of Elections, said it would be too risky to install 16,000 different passwords by March 2 and make sure election judges had the right passwords. Lamone told legislators that poll workers had already made some of RABA's recommendations, including tamper tape on the machines.

"They are going to look like someone who has duct tape wrapped around them," Lamone said.
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