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Testimony of Dr. David Wagner before House Committee

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WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF DAVID WAGNER, PH.D.
COMPUTER SCIENCE DIVISION
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND COMMITTEE ON HOUSE
ADMINISTRATION
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JULY 19, 2006


http://www.house.gov/science/hearings/full06/july%2019/index.htm

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QUOTES:

1) "The federal qualification process is not working. Federal standards call for voting machines to be
tested by Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) before the machines are approved for use, but the
past few years have exposed shortcomings in the testing process. The ITAs are approving machines
with reliability, security, and accuracy problems....."

2) "These failures have exposed structural problems in the federal qualification process:
• The ITAs are paid by the vendors whose systems they are evaluating. Thus, the ITAs are
subject to conflicts of interest that raise questions about their ability to effectively safeguard
the public interest.
• The process lacks transparency, rendering effective public oversight difficult or impossible.
ITA reports are proprietary-they are considered the property of the vendor-and not open
to public inspection..."

3) " • Testing is too lax to ensure the machines are secure, reliable, and trustworthy. The federal
standards require only superficial testing for security and reliability. For instance, Califor-
nia's tests have revealed unexpected reliability problems in several voting systems previously
approved by ITAs..."

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4) " • Even if an ITA finds a serious security flaw in a voting system, they are not required to report
that flaw if the flaw does not violate the VVSG standards. Thus, it is possible to imagine
a scenario where an ITA finds a flaw that could endanger elections, but where the ITA is
unable to share its findings with anyone other than the vendor who built the flawed system...."

TESTIMONY:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is David Wagner. I am an associate
professor of computer science at U.C. Berkeley. My area of expertise is in computer security and
the security of electronic voting. I have an A.B. (1995, Mathematics) from Princeton University
and a Ph.D. (2000, Computer Science) from U.C. Berkeley. I have published two books and over

90 peer-reviewed scientific papers. In past work, I have analyzed the security of cellphones, web
browsers, wireless networks, and other kinds of widely used information technology. I am a member
of the ACCURATE center, a multi-institution, interdisciplinary academic research project funded
by the National Science Foundation1 to conduct novel scientific research on improving election
technology. I am a member of the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems Technology
Assessment Advisory Board2.
Background
Today, the state of electronic voting security is not good. Many of today's electronic voting machines
have security problems. The ones at greatest risk are the paperless voting machines. These machines
are vulnerable to attack: a single person with insider access and some technical knowledge could
switch votes, perhaps undetected, and potentially swing an election. With this technology, we
cannot be certain that our elections have not been corrupted.
Studies have found that there are e_ective security measures available to protect election in-
tegrity, but many states have not implemented these measures. The most e_ective defense involves
adoption of voter-verified paper records and mandatory manual audits of these records, but only 13
states have mandated use of these security measures. (At present, 27 states mandate voter-verified
paper records, another 8 states use voter-verified paper records throughout the state even though
it is not required by law, and the remaining 15 states do not consistently use voter-verified paper
records. Of the 35 states that do use voter-verified paper records statewide, only 13 require rou-
tine manual audits of those records1.) Voter-verified paper records provide an independent way of
reconstructing the voter's intent, even if the voting software is faulty or corrupt, making them a
powerful tool for reliability and security.
Problems
The federal qualification process is not working. Federal standards call for voting machines to be
tested by Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) before the machines are approved for use, but the
past few years have exposed shortcomings in the testing process. The ITAs are approving machines
with reliability, security, and accuracy problems. In the past several years:
1This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CNS-052431 (ACCURATE). Any
opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
2I do not speak for UC Berkeley, ACCURATE, the California Secretary of State, or any other organization.
A_liations are provided for identification purposes only.
1
• ITA-approved voting machines have lost thousands of votes. In Carteret County, NC, vot-
ing machines irretrievably lost 4,400 votes during the 2004 election. The votes were never
recovered2. In 2002, vote-counting software in Broward County, Florida, initially mis-tallied
thousands of votes, due to flaws in handling more than 32,000 votes; fortunately, alert election
o_cials noticed the problem and were able to work around the flaws in the machines. In 2004,
the same problem happened again in Broward County, changing the outcome on one state
proposition3 4, and in Orange County5. In Tarrant County, Texas, an ITA-approved voting
system counted 100,000 votes that were never cast by voters6.
• ITA-approved machines have su_ered from reliability flaws that could have disrupted elec-
tions. California's reliability testing found that one ITA-approved voting system su_ered
from mechanical and software reliability problems so severe that, if it had been used in a real
election, about 20% of machines would have experienced at least one failure during election
day and probably would have had to be taken out of service7.
• ITA-approved machines have been found to contain numerous security defects that threaten
the integrity of our elections. Over the past several years, we have been inundated with reve-
lations of security flaws in our voting systems from academics (e.g., Johns Hopkins University,
Rice University8), industry consultants hired by election administrators (e.g., SAIC9, Com-
puware10, InfoSENTRY11, and RABA12), and interested outsiders (e.g., Finnish researcher
Harri Hursti13 14). None of these flaws were caught by ITAs. In the past five years, at least
eight studies have evaluated the security of commercial voting systems, and every one found
new, previously unknown security flaws in systems that had been approved by the ITAs. In
my own research, I was commissioned by the State of California to examine the voting soft-
ware from one major vendor, and I found multiple security flaws even though the software
was previously approved by ITAs15. One of these flaws was discovered at least three times
by independent security experts over a period of nine years (once in 1997, again in 2003, and
again in 2006), but was never flagged by the ITAs at any point over that nine-year period16.
All of these defects were ostensibly prohibited by federal standards17, but the ITA testing and
federal qualification process failed to weed out these problematic voting systems. The consequence
of these problems is that the federal qualification process is at present unable to assure that voting
systems meet minimum quality standards for security, reliability, and accuracy.
Federal standards have so far failed to address these problems. The 2005 VVSG standards
do not remedy the demonstrated failures of the process to screen out insecure, unreliable, and
inaccurate machines.
These failures have exposed structural problems in the federal qualification process:
• The ITAs are paid by the vendors whose systems they are evaluating. Thus, the ITAs are
subject to conflicts of interest that raise questions about their ability to e_ectively safeguard
the public interest.
• The process lacks transparency, rendering e_ective public oversight di_cult or impossible.
ITA reports are proprietary-they are considered the property of the vendor-and not open
to public inspection. Also, if a voting system fails the ITA's tests, that fact is revealed only
to the manufacturer of that voting system. In one widely publicized incident, one Secretary
of State asked an ITA whether it had approved a particular voting system submitted to the
ITA. The ITA refused to comply: it declined to discuss its tests with anyone other than the
voting system manufacturer, citing its policy of confidentiality18.
2
In addition, the secretive nature of the elections industry prevents independent security ex-
perts from performing their own analysis of the system. Technical information about voting
systems is often considered proprietary and secret by vendors, and voting system source code
is generally not available to independent experts. In the rare cases where independent ex-
perts have been able to gain access to source code, they have discovered reliability and security
problems.
• Testing is too lax to ensure the machines are secure, reliable, and trustworthy. The federal
standards require only superficial testing for security and reliability. For instance, Califor-
nia's tests have revealed unexpected reliability problems in several voting systems previously
approved by ITAs. In my opinion, California's reliability testing methodology is superior to
that mandated in the federal standards, because California tests voting equipment at a large
scale and under conditions designed to simulate a real election.
• Many standards in the requirements are not tested and not enforced. The federal standards
specify many requirements that voting systems must meet, and specify a testing methodology
for ITAs to use, but many of the requirements are not covered by that testing methodology.
The ITAs only apply whatever tests are mandated by the standards. The consequence is that
the federal standards contain many requirements with no teeth. For instance, Section 6.4.2
of the 2002 standards requires voting systems to "deploy protection against the many forms
of threats to which they may be exposed"; the security vulnerabilities listed above appear to
violate this untested requirement. Likewise, Section 6.2 requires access controls to prevent
"modification of compiled or interpreted code"; three of the major vulnerabilities revealed in
the past two years have violated this requirement. These requirements appear to be ignored
during ITA testing and thus have little or no force in practice.
• Parts of the voting software are exempt from inspection, reducing the e_ectiveness of the fed-
eral testing. The federal standards contain a loophole that renders Commercial O_-the-Shelf
(COTS) software exempt from some of the testing. The COTS loophole means that the secu-
rity, reliability, and correctness of those software components are not adequately examined.
COTS software can harbor serious defects, but these defects might not be discovered by the
federal qualification process as it currently stands.
• Even if an ITA finds a serious security flaw in a voting system, they are not required to report
that flaw if the flaw does not violate the VVSG standards. Thus, it is possible to imagine
a scenario where an ITA finds a flaw that could endanger elections, but where the ITA is
unable to share its findings with anyone other than the vendor who built the flawed system.
Relying upon vendors to disclose flaws in their own products is unsatisfactory.
• There are disincentives for local election o_cials to apply further scrutiny to these machines.
Some local election o_cials who have attempted to make up for the gaps in the federal
qualification process by performing their own independent security tests have faced substantial
resistance. After one Florida county election o_cial invited outside experts to test the security
of his voting equipment and revealed that the tests had uncovered security defects in the
equipment, each of the three voting system vendors certified in Florida responded by declining
to do business with his county19. The impasse was resolved only when the State of Florida
interceded20. In Utah, one election o_cial was pressured to resign after he invited independent
security experts to examine the security of his equipment and the testing revealed security
3
vulnerabilities21 22. The barriers to performing independent security testing at the local level
heighten the impact of shortcomings in the federal standards.
• If serious flaws are discovered in a voting system after it has been approved, there is no
mechanism to de-certify the flawed system and revoke its status as a federally qualified voting
system.
The 2005 VVSG standards do not address these structural problems in the federal qualification
process. The 2005 VVSG standards were drafted over a period of approximately three months.
With such an extremely constrained time schedule, it is not surprising that the 2005 standards
were unable to satisfactorily address the fundamental issues raised above.
The shortcomings of the 2005 VVSG standards have several consequences:
• We are likely to continue to see new security and reliability problems discovered periodically.
The security and reliability of federally approved systems will continue to be subject to
criticism.
• Shortcomings at the federal level place a heavy burden on states. The 2005 VVSG standards
do not provide enough information about the reliability and security of these machines to
help states and counties make informed purchasing decisions. This places an undue burden
on local election o_cials. Some states are doing their best to make up for gaps in the federal
process, but many states do not have the resources to do so.
Also, the increased scrutiny at the state level has the potential to subject vendors to dozens
of involved state-level certification processes that have been instituted to make up for the
gaps in the federal process, increasing the compliance burden on vendors.
• Millions of voters will continue to vote on voting machines that cannot be independently
audited. This may diminish confidence in election results. In the event of any dispute over
the outcome of the election, it may be impossible to demonstrate whether the election was
accurate. Allegations of fraud may be di_cult or impossible to rebut, due to the fact that
today's paperless voting machines do not generate and retain the evidence that would be
required to perform an e_ective audit. The lack of openness and transparency regarding
voting system source code, testing, and equipment may spawn further distrust in voting
systems.
• Voting equipment may still be subject to security and reliability problems, even if they comply
with the 2005 VVSG standards. Many of the security and reliability defects described above
would not have been prevented even if the 2005 VVSG standards had been in force when the
machines were evaluated. Approval under the 2005 VVSG standards is not a guarantee of
security or reliability.
Recommendations
The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) and the Election Assistance Commis-
sion (EAC) could improve the VVSG standards and begin to address these shortcomings by taking
several steps:
• Mandate voter-verified paper records and mandatory manual audits. Stop approving pa-
perless voting machines. Today's paperless voting machines are not auditable. There is no
e_ective way to independently check whether their results are accurate or to detect electronic
4
fraud. The inability to audit these machines greatly heightens the impact of security prob-
lems. Ensuring that election results can be independently audited would go a long way to
reducing the impact of security defects in voting equipment. The 2007 VVSG should man-
date voter-verified paper records and automatic manual audits of those records after every
election.
• Broaden the focus beyond functionality testing, and embrace discipline-specific methods of
testing voting equipment. Today, the standards primarily focus on functionality testing,
which evaluates whether the machines implement all necessary functionality. Standards need
to be expanded to incorporate technical evaluations of the security, reliability, and usability
of these machines. The standards must incorporate the di_erent forms of evaluation these
disciplines each require. For instance, security evaluation is unique, in that it must deal
with an active, intelligent adversary; functionality concerns the presence of desired behavior,
while security concerns the absence of undesired behavior. Consequently, system security
evaluations should always include an adversarial analysis, including a threat assessment and
a source code review. The testing methods in the standard should be updated to reflect the
state of the art in each discipline. Special attention will be needed to ensure that the testing
team has su_cient expertise, time, and resources to perform a thorough evaluation.
• Eliminate conflicts of interest in the federal testing process. ITAs should not be paid by the
vendors whose systems they are testing. Several financial models are possible, and all deserve
consideration. For instance, one possibility is for the EAC to collect a fee from vendors, as a
condition of eligibility for the federal qualification process, to cover the costs of hiring ITAs
to evaluate the system under consideration.
• Reform the federal testing process to provide more transparency and openness. All ITA
reports should be publicly available. The documentation and technical data package provided
to ITAs should be made available to the public or to independent technical experts so that
they can independently cross-check the ITA's conclusions and exercise public oversight of the
testing process. Also, the right of the public to observe elections is rendered less meaningful
if those observing are unable to understand what it is that they are seeing; under the current
rules, observers have no access to the documentation for the voting system they're observing,
which partially limits their ability to e_ectively monitor the administration of the election.
• Require broader disclosure of voting system source code. The secrecy surrounding voting
source code is a barrier to independent evaluation of machines and contributes to distrust. To
enhance transparency, improve public oversight and hold vendors accountable, voting software
should be disclosed more broadly. At a minimum, source code should be made available to
independent technical experts under appropriate nondisclosure agreements. In the long run,
source code should be publicly disclosed. Source code disclosure does not prevent vendors
from protecting their intellectual property; vendors can continue to rely on copyright and
patent law for this purpose.
Keeping source code secret does not appreciably improve security: in the long run, the soft-
ware cannot be kept secret from motivated attackers with access to a single voting machine.
However, disclosing source code more broadly could enhance public confidence in elections
and is likely to lead to improvements to voting system security.
• Incorporate closed feedback loops into the regulatory process. Standards should be informed
by experience. At present, there is no requirement for reporting of performance data or
5
failures of voting equipment, no provision for analyzing this data, and no process for revising
regulations in a timely fashion in response. The 2007 VVSG should incorporate a framework
for collecting, investigating, and acting on data from the field and should provide a mechanism
for interim updates to the standards to reflect newly discovered threats to voting systems. For
instance, the FAA requires airplane operators to report all incidents (including both failures
and near-failures), uses independent accident investigators to evaluate these reports, and
constantly revises regulations in response to this information. Adopting a similar framework
for voting systems would likely improve voting systems.
• Strengthen the evaluation of usability and accessibility. The discipline of usability has devel-
oped methods for usability testing-such as user testing with actual voters or pollworkers, as
well as heuristic evaluation by usability and accessibility experts-but these methods are not
currently reflected in the VVSG standards. They would represent a valuable addition to the
standards. In addition, usability experts have suggested it would be helpful to move away
from the current emphasis on functional requirements and towards an evaluation regime based
primarily on assessing performance against some quantitative metric of usability23. The 2005
VVSG standards are a positive first step towards addressing human factors issues, but there
is room for further improvement.
• Increase the representation of technical experts in computer security on the TGDC. The
appointment of Prof. Ronald Rivest to the TGDC was warmly welcomed by security ex-
perts: Rivest is extremely qualified and very highly respected among the computer security
community. However, at present, Rivest is the only member of the TGDC with substantial
experience in the area of security. Appointing more TGDC members with security expertise
would improve the ability of the TGDC to develop e_ective standards.
• Ensure that standards are grounded in the best scientific and engineering understanding. Too
often, decisions have been made that do not reflect the best judgement of the relevant ex-
perts. For instance, in 2004 the premier professional organization for computing professionals
surveyed their members about e-voting technology. 95% of respondents voted for a position
endorsing voter-verified paper records and expressing concerns about paperless voting tech-
nologies24-yet two years later, this overwhelming consensus among technical experts has yet
to be reflected in federal standards.
For further information, I refer readers to the ACCURATE center's "Public Comment on the 2005
Voluntary Voting System Guidelines",25 which I have attached as an appendix to this testimony.
In the short term, adopting the recommendations of the Brennan Center report on e-voting is
the most e_ective and practical step election o_cials could take to make existing voting systems
as secure and reliable as possible for this November. These recommendations include:
• Conduct automatic routine audits of the voter-verified paper records;
• Perform parallel testing of voting machines;
• Ban voting machines with wireless capability;
• Use a transparent and random selection process for all audits; and,
• Adopt procedures for investigating and responding to evidence of fraud or error.
6
For further information, see the Brennan Center report26.
In addition, I encourage election o_cials to pay special attention to their voter registration
systems. In many states, voter registration processes are in a state of flux, due to the HAVA
requirement that statewide registration databases be in place this year. These databases could
significantly improve elections if implemented well; if implemented poorly, however, they could
disenfranchise many thousands of voters. See the USACM report on voter registration databases27.
Summary
In summary, the 2005 VVSG standards contain significant shortcomings regarding the security,
reliability, and auditability of electronic voting. Members of the computer security community are
available to help devise better solutions.
Notes
1"The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World", Brennan Center Task Force on
Voting System Security, June 27, 2006. Since that report was written, Arizona has adopted voter-verified paper
records and routine manual audits of those records statewide.
2"Computer loses more than 4,000 early votes in Carteret County", Associated Press, November 4, 2004.
3"Broward Ballot Blunder Changes Amendment Result", Local 10 News, November 4, 2004.
4"Broward Machines Count Backward", The Palm Beach Post, November 5, 2004.
5"Distrust fuels doubts on votes: Orange's Web site posted wrong totals", Orlando Sentinel, November 12, 2004.
6"Vote spike blamed on program snafu", Forth Worth Star-Telegram, March 9, 2006.
7"Analysis of Volume Testing of the AccuVote TSx/AccuView", Report of the California Secretary of State's
Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board, October 11, 2005.
8"Analysis of an Electronic Voting System", Tadayoshi Kohno, Adam Stubblefield, Aviel D. Rubin and Dan S.
Wallach, May, 2004.
9"Risk Assessment Report: Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System and Processes", Science Applications Interna-
tional Corporation, September 2, 2003.
10"Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Technical Security Assessment Report", Compuware Corporation, November
21, 2003.
11"Security Assessment: Summary of Findings and Recommendations", InfoSENTRY, November 21, 2003.
12"Trusted Agent Report: Diebold AccuVote-TS System", RABA Innovative Solution Cell, January 20, 2004.
13"Critical Security Issues with Diebold Optical Scan", Harri Hursti, Black Box Voting, July 4, 2005.
14"Critical Security Issues with Diebold TSx", Harri Hursti, Black Box Voting, May 11, 2006.
15"Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuBasic Interpreter", Report of the California Secretary of State's Voting
Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board, February 14, 2006.
16"Connecting Work on Threat Analysis to the Real World", Douglas W. Jones, June 8, 2006.
17For instance, the security vulnerabilities appear to violate the requirements of Section 6.4.2 and Section 6.2 of
the 2002 FEC standards.
18"Election O_cials Rely on Private Firms", San Jose Mercury News, May 30, 2004.
19"Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors", Washington Post, March 26, 2006.
20"Sort of fixed: Broader election flaws persist", Tallahassee Democrat, April 15, 2006.
21"Cold Shoulder for E-voting Whistleblowers", The New Standard, May 17, 2006.
22"New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Systems", The New York Times, May 12, 2006.
23"Public Comment on the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines", ACCURATE Center, submitted to the
United States Election Assistance Commission, September 2005.
24"ACM Recommends Integrity, Security, Usability in E-voting, Cites Risks of Computer-based Systems", USACM,
September 28, 2004.
25http://accurate-voting.org/accurate/docs/2005_vvsg_comment.pdf
26"The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World", Brennan Center Task Force on
Voting System Security, June 27, 2006.
27"Statewide Databases of Registered Voters: Study Of Accuracy, Privacy, Usability, Security, and Reliability
Issues", commissioned by the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, 2/16/06
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