back to article Diebold rebrands evoting business, revises forecasts

Diebold has re-branded its electronic voting subsidiary as "Premier Election Solutions" after attempts to offload the business failed. The firm also had to rein in its performance predictions, as uncertainty about the security of the machines starts to bite. The firm said: "Efforts to sell this company... have proven …

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"due in part to the rapidly evolving political uncertainties"

Good to know that's the real reason. I just assumed that it's because their machines are complete cr@p!

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Pot==Kettle==Black

What is interesting about the "controversy" surrounding eVoting is not the relative "insecurity" of the machines that is getting the big hoo-hoo in the press, but the failure of the press to compare the discovered issues with the machines against the well-know election tampering techniques that the machines ostensibly would replace.

Current voting methods, such as the infamous punch cards, mechanical machines and mark-sense ballots are compromised in virtually every election. Mechanical voting machines are the hardest to "fix": these typically need the resources of a large political "machine" to thoroughly compromise, such as that of former Chicago mayor Richard Daly (the first, not his son). The 1960 elections were well known to have been "rigged" with the Chicago precinct machines locking down Democrat votes when the final lever was pulled to register the votes. (This even made a short-term scandal in Chicago back in 1961...but to no avail.)

Punch card ballots are even easier to compromise. In only seconds, an unsupervised campaign worker can alter or discredit hundreds of votes with nothing more than a sharp, stiff wire, pushed through the holes on a stack of cards to select the appropriate candidate or invalidate the votes for other candidates. Of course, this method leave a tell-tale "hanging chad" because the uneven pressure of the rod (versus the square punch in the voting booth) doesn't cleanly break the perforation around the hole. Again, well known, well practiced and very hard to prevent, as all parties employ the technique.

Mark-sense is probably the most secure, in that damage to a ballot will reject it from the reader, and only individual ballots can be altered accurately. However, forcing the use of invalid marking tools (pens with red ink, very hard pencils, etc.) can foil this method too, especially if employed selectively in the booths of one party versus another. Again, well documented and universally practiced.

The problem with the eVoting machines is that they are actually MORE secure than the incumbent methods...making it much more difficult to alter (rather than simply break) the machines and their results. Yes, the machines CAN be compromised, but, in most cases, it requires several minutes of time employed by a person with careful training and skill. More than, say, a campaign worker with a sharp piece of wire.

As hackers and their botnets demonstrate daily, anything Man can conceive of to enhance security can and will be defeated by Man. The best we can hope for is to reduce the damage to "acceptable" levels, whatever those may be. Maybe the eVoting machines are too far below the threshold for "swinging" an election in a particular precinct, making them "untrustworthy" to interests on all sides of the vote.

I would be very interested in another round of testing, only do it in a "typical" polling place, and have as a control punch card ballots as well. Let the participants bring any and all tools they wish, and blind substitute "hackers" into the oversight team as well (ie, the people that empty the cards out of the boxes and transport them, as well as the technicians that setup and remove the eVoting machines). THEN compare the results of the simulated votes. I'd bet US$5 that the "old school" ballots are far more compromised than the "new school" electronic apparatus.

Bet THAT story wouldn't see the light of day!

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"PREMIER Election Solutions"

...Indeed; "Premier Bush" elections systems.

Other possible rebranding choices:

"Czar Election Solutions"

"Emperor-O-Matic"

"AutoChad Systems"

"eBuy Vote Solutions"

"Lobbyinc"

The firm said: "Efforts to sell these votes ... have proven unsuccessful due to the rapidly evolving political uncertainties and controversies surrounding state and jurisdiction purchases of electronic voting systems".

Despite these setbacks, there should be an expanding global market for DieBold; just think how many units could be sold to North Korea, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Russia, etc.

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SMART Sparcs Processing.

Are DieBold responsible for providing GWBush,Commander in Chief ...of what ?

If a Machine elects a President has Government Passed to More IntelAIgent Machines? That would mean that Software Programmers are responsible and an Injection of new Key Code all that would be necessary to elect a Beta One. One Providing the Commander in Chief of Perceptions Management with the Creation in CyberSpace of the Command and Control of Computers and Communications.

Does that make Perfect Sense or does IT just make some sense for now.

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Mystery vote

the reason these companies got so much flack is very simple (yes, they richly deserved it).

they refused to provide paper receipts, or a verifiable paper trail. internal emails that surfaced from at least one vendor, suggested charging the better part of a thousand dollars for a low-end dot-matrix printer (easily found for under $50) that would print receipts from these voting stations, to discourage election officials from purchasing them, and to increase the profit margins.

an electronic record that is not backed by documentation is not auditable. the vote is whatever the database says it is, no matter how many times it is checked. if someone tweaks the pathetic, unprotected MS Access databases many of these vendors use, and the intruders covered their tracks, there is absolutely no way to know that the vote was rigged. even a casual knowledge of computers would suggest that it is trivial to provide a paper trail; amazon.com orders (just an example) are easily printable, and there is no reason that the audit trail should be any more difficult to produce here.

this is very, very simple and very, very obvious, except to those who shill for these companies (there has been a truly colossal amount of "astroturfing" - fake grassroots activism, really just a front for the company itself). Diebold has been a particularly bad player, so to see their shoddy systems hung out to dry is rather pleasant.

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Anonymous Coward

Brett starts out okay then asserts nonsense

I'm with Brett Brennan on the methods of cheating with punch cards and mark sense cards. But then he asserts that electronic machines are somehow harder to cheat with.

But just a quick scan through a document like this,

http://www.equalccw.com/dieboldsinsandsecrecy.pdf , should make it obvious that it's very very easy to manipulate the MS-Access-based database on a Diebold machine, or to have it boot a specially-altered piece of software during voting and then replace it with a legal one right afterward.

Since this is possible (according to this document) at seven levels or more, means it's ridiculously insecure. And we're not talking about changing a stack of votes, we're talking about trivially switching the vote numbers for two candidates, or changing the totals arbitrarily before reporting them.

The idea of having an auditable paper trail for these machines is not new -- some Diebold machines were altered from similar ones that already had such a paper trail. I seem to remember reading articles at the time in which Diebold was asked to remove them or price them out of the market.

This is beyond shenanigans, and I'm glad it's getting some credence at last. Don't take my word for it, read the research at blackboxvoting.org

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Anonymous Coward

Well Done Register!

Your series on this issue is beginning to read like hard hitting investigative journalism, something we have become content to assume is dead.

Perhaps it is not, well done!

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"due in part to the rapidly evolving political uncertainties"

Nah, this means one or more of the following:

* the machines are crap

* the machines are crap and insecure

* the machines are crap and insecure and we're sorry

* the machines are crap and insecure and we're sorry we got caught peddling this junk

* the machines are crap and insecure and we're sorry we got caught peddling this junk and not sure if we'll be sued

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English- Please? (Re:Comments on ‘Diebold rebrands evoting business, revises forecasts’)

"While we plan to fully support"

WTF? What on earth does "to fully" mean? What/who/where or when is "support" that they should "fully" it?

"Fully" is not a verb. I appreciate the the Reg is trying to be all things to all things but can we stay away from the apparently totally brain-dead USA view of the language as being something that semi-literate would be writers/reporters etc., can use to obfuscate their own lack of understanding and knowledge by taking any word and putting "to" in front of it?

"The Reg" should know better.

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Yeah right ..

Should read a bit more like this : "The machines are so poor on security that it's

affecting the trust people have in our automatic teller machines.Therefore , we're

getting rid of the department in a desperate attempt to regain our lost credibility

and try to repolish our image of " Diebold = security " that's been blasted to

smithereens .. Not to mention that our attempt to rig the elections have failed

miserably and we'd like to apologise to the Republican Party for failing them. "

hmm .. yep .. sounds more like it

Ric

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Pencil and paper anyone?

I cant really see whats wrong with the old method TBH. Its probably harder to defraud on a large scale, leaves a paper trail and is simple enough even the most retarded voter to comprehend. Even allowing for paying (in the UK) council staff to tally the papers, its still probably cheaper than the overpriced electronic "solutions". In the elections I've seen at first hand in an area with an electorate of about 100,000, I've never seen more than a few dozen 'debatable' spoiled papers to be squabbled about between the parties.

In the UK, the fraud is more likely to relate to the registering of non-existent people or dead/overseas relatives than it is to ballot stuffing, marking papers or dubious counts.

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@Terence

Um. I'm sure you're trying to be funny, but here goes.

The phrase "to fully support" is a little like "to boldly go" - the verb is at the end and the adverb is in the middle. This is often referred to as a "split infinitive" (since the infinitive - "to support", "to go" - is split with an adverb) and is often frowned upon by people who forget that English isn't French.

It was very unfashionable for a while, but it seems to be making a comeback. Think of it as linguistic flared trousers and you might find it a little less upsetting. And you can always that we don't German speak rejoice.

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Pencil & Paper works for us

Here in Australia we still use handwritten paper ballots, and nobody ever seems to allege fraud - i.e; they are highly trusted.

Of course we've heard of famous cases where ballots for one candidate were found stuffed up a water spout - 50 years ago!

We allow all parties to have a scrutineer at every polling place to observe and/or object to procedures, and this seems to work well.

Electronic machines are being trialled for a batch of disabled people, to see what happens, but this is not using Diebold or ESS or Sequoia, but our own homebrew that produces an audit trail.

The result will be interesting, as we are due a Federal Election at the end of this year.

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The thing about Australia

is that we have an electoral commission that's independent and trusted. We don't let bunches of local crooks run our national elections. Oh, and the voting machine trial uses open source which means the system itself is fully scrutinised.

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