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Debunking Pre-Election Testing Myths

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Debunking myths can be a full time job in the election integrity world.  Someone recently asserted: 
"As for vote switching, not sure how many times I have to tell you, the election goes thru a logic and accuracy test that proves the votes are counted correctly. There is no vote switching ... on ES&S machines. Not sure where you get this information. You shouldn't believe everything you hear." 

Malware can easily defeat pre-election testing and certification processes: logic and accuracy tests cannot "prove" that software is free of malicious code.  Assertions that no vote switching has ever been shown to have occurred on an ES&S system or any other computerized voting system is explained by the fact that malware (malicious software code) can be self-erasing.   

A few hours later, the same software advocate said: 

"I was a programmer for over 40 years. But lets take it a step further. What if the hacking is done in the module that does the election reporting and not the machines or media? How can we ever trust anything that the computer does? My answer is that so far, the ES&S machines have not been hacked and the state does extensive testing, so how did this hacking get by them? You keep harping on human hand counts, I trust the machines much more than the humans. Machines don't care who wins, they do as they are told. And as our testing shows, they have been doing exactly that."
Over 50 scientific studies have been published in recent years which contradict these assertions.  Here are a dozen published statements by computer security experts: 

1. "[E]xperience in testing software and systems has shown that testing to high degrees of security and reliability is from a practical perspective not possible."  

-- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Requiring Software Independence in Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines 2007: Security and Transparency Subcommittee Recommendations for the Technical Guidelines Development Committee. November, 2006.  

2.  In Dec. 2007 Ohio tested ES&S, Hart and Diebold.  "All of the studied systems possess critical security failures that render their technical controls insufficient to guarantee a trustworthy election."   

-- Ohio Secretary of State, Project EVEREST Report of Findings, December 14, 2007  

3. "[T]he growing use of information technology in elections ... provides the opportunity for new kinds of attacks, from new kinds of attackers."

And, later, "New and more ingenious kinds of malware are constantly being invented and used. There are now tens of thousands of known viruses, and the sophistication of tools used to develop and use new ones has increased. 

"Malware in a voting system could be designed to operate in very subtle ways, for example, dropping or changing votes in a seemingly random way to make detection more difficult. Malware can also be designed to be adaptive - changing what it does depending on the direction of the tally. It could also potentially be inserted at any of a number of different stages in the development and implementation process - from the precinct all the way back to initial manufacture - and lie in wait for the appropriate moment." 

-- Fischer, Eric A. CRS Report for Congress: Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues. Congressional Research Service, November 4, 2003.    

4.  "This is a classic computer security problem. Whoever gets into the machine first wins. So if the Trojan horse software is in there first, you ask it to test itself -- it will always lie to you and tell you everything is fine. And no matter what testing code you try to add after the fact, it's too late. It can now create a world where the testing software can't tell that the machine has been compromised, even though it has...." 

-- Dan Wallach, Rice University computer security expert has examined electronic voting systems since 2001, and has testified about voting security issues before government bodies in the U.S., Mexico, and the European Union. Quote from Peering through the chinks in the armor of high-tech elections, May 27, 2007  

5. "An attack could plausibly be accomplished by a single skilled individual with temporary access to a single voting machine.  The damage could be extensive – malicious code could spread to every voting machine in polling places and to county election servers." 

-- Calandrino, Joseph A., Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, David Wagner, Harlan Yu, and William P. Zeller. Source Code Review of the Diebold Voting System. University of California, Berkeley under contract to the California Secretary of State, Top to Bottom Review, July 20, 2007. 

6. "There would be no way to know that any of these attacks occurred; the canvass procedure would not detect any anomalies, and would just produce incorrect results. The only way to detect and correct the problem would be by recount of the original paper ballots." 

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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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