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'Fatally Flawed' Systems Await Voters: 'Drastic Change Needed'

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A new paper, and video, has been issued by the Computer Security Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This group contributed to voting system reviews conducted by Ohio and California last year.  The 11-page paper was presented in July at the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis held in Seattle.  Much of it is comprehensible to most voters.  The Group also prepared a 17-minute video, presented in two parts (on page 2) that illustrates several attacks, and shows how security seals are ineffective. 

The paper clarifies that security is lacking in both Sequoia and ES&S voting systems: "the electronic voting systems that we have reviewed are neither secure nor well-designed."  It spends time discussing the certification process which does not and cannot adequately secure a software driven voting system:

"While most critical systems are continuously scrutinized and evaluated for safety and correctness, electronic voting systems are not subject to the same level of scrutiny. A number of recent studies have shown that most (if not all) of the electronic voting systems being used today are fatally flawed and that their quality does not match the importance of the task that they are supposed to carry out."  (emphasis added) 

This conclusion corroborates many prior statements made by security experts.  Twelve such quotes are reproduced here.  The paper states: 

"All voting systems recently analyzed by independent security testers have been found to contain fatal security flaws that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the voting process.

...

"Our experience suggests that there is a need for a drastic change in the way in which electronic systems are designed, developed, and tested. 

...

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"Unless electronic voting systems are held up to standards that are commensurate with the criticality of the tasks they have to perform, the very core of our democracy is in danger."

(emphasis added) 

While detailing many of the vulnerabilities in touchscreen (DRE) voting systems, which more than half the states have outlawed 1, the paper specifically discusses optical scan systems: 

"Evaluations of the various optical scanners offered by both vendors followed much the same pattern of the previous voting system components. A patent disregard for cryptographic authentication and integrity checks allows attackers to overwrite a system's firmware with malicious versions and modify or construct election data to be processed by an EMS.

"Physical security measures were also lacking. In particular, the ES&S scanner lock was easily picked with a paper clip during our tests, while the "unpickable" lock on the Sequoia scanner was bypassed by removing a few screws and pulling out the lock cylinder from the scanner's chassis by hand. In both cases, this allows an attacker to access machine internals to potentially execute arbitrary code."

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The Computer Security Group at UCSB issued a statement introducing this information, reposted with permission: 

Evaluating the Security of Electronic Voting Systems: Are your votes really counted?

Electronic voting systems have been introduced to improve the voting process. Since their inception, they have been controversial, because both the technologists and the general public realized that they were losing direct control over an important part of the voting process: counting the votes.

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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