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back to article E-voting outfit confesses vote-dropping software bug

Electronic voting machine manufacturer Premier Elections Solutions has warned government officials of a critical programming error that can drop votes before they are tallied. The logic error is present on Premier's touch screen and optical scan equipment and occurs when votes are being transferred from memory cards to a central …

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Hmm

Sounds like a feature to me

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Design flaw, not bug

It shouldn't try to erase *anything* until well after all the data has been uploaded. At the very least, the data should be confirmed as copied and counted correctly before attempting to process the next card.

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This must be one of the most clueless tech companies ever

I mean, really.

Is there no end to their flamboyant displays of asshattery?

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Diabolical

The scary part is that a large number of the ATMs I use are also manufactured by Diebold yet I've never had a problem with them, and ATM errors are quite a small percentage of the total use. Just goes to show that security of money is more important than the security of democracy...

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RW
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I speak for all Register readers in saying...

<boggle>

What kind of cybernetic cowboys was Diebold using to do the programming? Was there no application of the innumerable tools that help you avoid making this kind of gross mistake? And gross it is, as it may have meant the difference between that drunken frat boy becoming president and losing.

At least they've fessed up, but it's a little late in the day, I'd say.

I swear to God Almighty that it's time we start licensing programmers and analysts who are involved in the creation of "important" software. No tickee, no programee! And I mean really stringent licensing, with tests that are very very difficult to pass, and periodic re-testing. And large, very large, fines for anyone allowing an unlicensed programmer to work on critical systems.

Yes, this is a flame. I am beside myself with rage at this report.

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Diebold? Don't they make ATM Machines, too?

This is pretty crazy!

Diebold makes ATM Machines - I wonder how much cash that they lose?

I still can't believe that the U.S. Government allows virus-ridden MS Windows to run on those Voting and ATM Machines!

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to RW - Government licensing programmers???

This is the most bizarre comment I have ever heard!

A Government licensed programmer will not make 0 defect software!!!

Government intervention actually CREATED the problem!!!

Various legislative efforts to force electronic voting before it was clearly ready for prime time. Whenever government legislates & mandates any kind of development for which technology is not adequately tested, defects like this happen.

The various government obviously did not properly UAT test the machines correctly. Because these machines were used in hundreds of thousands of locations, the problem was not caught ahead of time, one could safely say that NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES PROPERLY UAT TESTED THE MACHINES!!!

Finally, because Microsoft Windows was placed on the machines, the excuse of a possible virus being at the root of the cause was actually viable in the media. Virus ridden Microsoft Windows should NEVER had been allowed on those machines, just for the reason of widespread viruses, worms, and trojan horses. I am not surprised that the governments who were making the requirements for the vendors to make a machine actually did not take this into consideration.

Now, RW is saying the people who forced the change and failed in countless UAT testings is going to fix this by licensing programmers?

HA HA HA HA!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Remember chads?, Keep those cards for re-counting,

Why does that machine have the option/capability of erasing the card?.

Those cards are cheap enough and the data important enough that they should only be using cards that _cannot_ be erased.

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Jobs Horns

This will be Osama Obama's claim when the Socialist Dems lose in November.

It's a "programmed" excuse.

Isn't Diebold an Apple Division? You'd think so with Apple's two decade long Flaw and Buggy software history and reputation.

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Unhappy

to Webster Phreaky - Uh, no.

Webster Phreaky asks, "Isn't Diebold an Apple Division?"

Uh, No. http://www.diebold.com/

Diebold is one of the largest producers and supporters of Automated Teller Machines in the world.

Diebold uses OS/2 and Microsoft Windows - hardly staples of Apple.

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Anonymous Coward

Actual "bug" content

if $vote = "democrat" then delete

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@Webster Phreaky

At least Osama Obama is better than that chimp you call president.

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Go

> By RW

I think it hilarious.

Upsetting yes but audacious in that the morons who accepted it were being told by their installers the machines were duff, news bulletins carried reports that Diebold were sacking installers and engineers for speaking out.

And then they took a machine's examiner to court over the wishes of a state or county who wanted an hardware expert to take a look at one of their machines.

Looks like they got 10 years for being morons.

By the way, has the chimpanzee ever made a public appearance where he did NOT ook-it all up?

I know there is or was a trend to show his stupidity at all times, even the production of a doll with some of his better quips. Were we seeing it all? Or were there ocasional insights and witticisms we never got shown?

*******

"This will be Osama Obama's claim when the Socialist Dems lose in November.

By Webster Phreaky

Isn't Diebold an Apple Division?

You'd think so with Apple's two decade long Flaw and Buggy software history and reputation."

WTF?

(I have to admit I thought that was the other Microsoft bloke in the last I-con.)

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Linux

@RW

Alternatively use of open source systems would have provided both transparency of the code and peer review by anyone with enough knowledge to do so.

An example of how this has worked to a degree is the NSA standards for encryption in the US.

If something can be closely examined and is still secure, surely that is way better than some proprietary code put together in rush on a commodity windows box (for ease i suppose?).

Instead of licensing the programmer how about indemnifying the voter with high penalties for flawed software. There are more than just developers in this.. i have no doubt a so-called 'manager', cut testing time as they wanted to be first to market.

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Pirate

I call ...

... "cover up".

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Stop

Errrr...Webster?

Given that the head of Diebold (as it was then) undertook to personally deliver the state of Ohio to the Republicans - and then, hey, did so, so at least one Republican keeps his promises, eh? - I doubt that the cluster**** that is their evoting system could be described as a Democrat plot...

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Dead Vulture

@Webster Phreaky

Are you mad? Diebold an Apple division. You ever heard of Google? It let's you check your wild guesses before placing them before the world.

No, Diebold is a publicly listed company (NYSE: DBD) with the vaguely nauseating corporate barf-line: "We won't rest until we measurably improve the extent to which our customers' customers are delighted with our self-service and security solutions; and we measurably improve the effectiveness and profitability of our customers' business. "

Diebold spun of Premier Election Solutions to stop the stink of it's numerous scandals tainting the mother company. There is now no mention of Premier AT ALL on Diebold's site, and Premier's site has no mention of Diebold.

In the "about us" on Premier: "Facilitating democracy is an honor, a privilege, and a challenge."

Gag.

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Anonymous Coward

Diebold OK, eVoting not

I used to work for a major supplier to Diebold's ATM division. Diebold has a lot of very good folks and well designed, well made products (though they should call a ceasefire in the unproductive internal conflict between Manufacturing and R&D).

I totally trust Diebold ATMs with my money, however I would not trust Diebold or any other company with my vote or democracy - that's way too important for any software or untraceable bits and bytes.

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Coat

@Brimful

Don't insult chimps

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Linux

@webster

good trolling sir, but the whole Apple hatin' thing is getting boring. I'm sure most of us are aware that Apple are little more than a bunch of gimmick merchants and that Linux will soon takeover the world, crushing all who oppose it, with penguin-foot like boots of steel and peer reviewed awesomeness.

On that mighty and awe inspiring day Bill Gates will finally receive a paper printed version of the Vista source code right up his over paid arsehole and the world will rejoice in Open Source Glory.

Until then can we please find something more interesting to Troll about?

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Phreaky...

Get yourself out to the shops, try PCWorld, or even your all-time favourite, the Apple Store, and see if they'll sell you a clue.

Whilst I almost agree with (but certainly to some degree, understand) your hatred of Apple. Your support for a knackered, old, bitter, sour-faced, backward, greedy, republican tosspot like McCain is utterly bewildering. Especially considering Apple is pretty much American Capitalism incarnate, the greed, the faddism, the fanboys, the advertising that gets everywhere and the total lack of giving a shit about any more than the contents of your wallet.

I was going to quite nicely sum things up here, but instead I'm going to simply state that you, Webster Phreaky, are not only a clueless tit, but *The* Clueless Tit to which all others shall be compared.

Fluke

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Coat

I may be over-simplifying but...

Surely the code in the voting system has but one purpose - to add incoming votes to the running totals for each candidate. How on earth do you screw up a code to add one number to another?

And why were the cards being erased? That's like having a paper ballot where the volunteer county-votey folk set fire to each ballot after they've added it to their running total.

For governments that seem so obsessed with beaurocracy, safety checks and endless paperwork, it seems odd that they would have a built-in erase function on the (e)-paper trail for the single most important set of figures in any democracy.

/mine's the one with the pocketful of hanging chads

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Coat

Ahh Webster...

You're really reaching here son... You're losing your art. Combining political rhetoric guaranteed to incite flames AND snide comments at Apple in one post? Stick to one or the other at a time... It's all about finesse.

Aside from that, is anyone truly confident that the officials really "caught the error", and that all those votes weren't lost? Smacks more of CYO to me.

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@Actual "bug" content

Fail. Did you even read the article? The entire contents of a card were dropped. Sheesh.

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Alert

Aaaaahhhh the joys...

Of outsourceing to India.....

nuf said....

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Open Source Visibility and Legal Issues

Since this discussion has already sunk to the "Windows sucks Open Source is Good" level - I feel that I must point out you all suck. Windows isn't the problem with the voting machines,the problem lies with the software developers. Everyone wants to blame someone else but at the end of the day you're all arguing that the make of car you drive is responsible if the wheel falls off - not the mechanic who was supposed to put the lug nuts on. Jesus.

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@Diebold? Don't they make ATM Machines, too?

we have a WinXP Diebold ATM at my local bank (PariBas-BNL) that shows looping blipvert videos perfectly but occasionally request a 20 digit pin code for the bank card when I only know 4 or 5 digits depending on the card. I've had a few "pin number not correct, card disabled" and the bank doesn't care - just suggests I use another ATM. I vote "No"!

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@ @Actual "bug" content

Ok, how about:

if total(democrat) > total(republican) then wipe_card()

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Rat

I smell rat! There is a 10 year old bug in the voting machines. Diebold decides to split off the voting machine division some lucky year before they discover the bug. Who has to pay the claims if the unhappy customers go to court?

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Is it any wonder

That so many states are trying to ditch all the e-voting machines they've bought (Some by choice, some forced) Just about every state that's had them, has decided they can't be trusted, not only from Diebold (But I have my suspicions some of the Diebold 'bugs' were deliberate, see above comment about Ohio) but from other suppliers too.

I still don't understand how a system, that simply adds up numbers can go so wrong.

I love computers, I love technology, if it's got a flashing light on it somewhere I'm usually all for it, but when it comes to something like an election, you just can't trust them, paper / pencil for me everytime (Although their not fool proof and can be rigged, they can't be rigged on such a massive scale as an e-voting system)

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Tim
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Recount?

Doesn't the bug (deliberate or otherwise) make the results of the election invalid?

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Boffin

Simple fix...

ban all electronic voting machines and go back to the simplest system: permanent marker connects the arrows, which get run through a Scan-tron reader. Cheap, easy to troubleshoot, and a guaranteed paper trail.

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@Tim

I'm with you ... particularly when Diebold claims that because Ohio noticed the error therefore it was not a problem ... completely ignoring the problems in other precincts and the fact that counting votes manually was made much more complex and error-prone as a result.

The chips should have been made read-only as soon as they were removed from the voting machines, and archived for the duration of the term, so the votes stored on them could be counted again, in case of a challenge, which there was.

That whole election, and every election during Bushco's monarchy, was fu**ed up in so many ways that one would be driven insane by dwelling on them for too long. Disgraceful.

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Anonymous Coward

Ok folks

Why are responding to webster. I mean clearly we all know he lost the plot ages ago. Now either meds of complete stop working or he has stopped taking meds.

now to the folks bashing MS, um the problem still would of existed on Linux. The ability of a program to count is not a function of the OS but crappy programing,

To the fella that suggested the programmers need to be licensed is not them but management. Did the test the software properly. I be willing to bet you at the last minute management charged the parameters and told the programmers just get it done . Bad arrangement can screw up the best programmers in the world

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ATMs

I saw one Diebold ATM (running OS/2) in the process of being repaired/upgraded. The hardware looked nice, various anti-intrusion mechanisms, additional locks on the containers for cash and deposits, etc. Trying to make it reconnect to the network, however, was a classic example of voodoo programming. There was a stack of printouts of the configuration settings that worked from every time the machine had been serviced, and no guarantee that they would still work the next time. Settings from one machine wouldn't necessarily work on another of the same model. The tech spent at least an hour trying to get it online.

Diebold may have good hardware engineers, but their software is a bit lacking.

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Gates Horns

Sign of the times

You just can't trust anyone to do their job anymore especially when it comes to vote rigging.

Why hasn't Uncle SpAM demanded our money back?

BTW: Evil Bill because these things usually run Windows.

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Black Helicopters

Watch....

"Hacking Democracy" for an insight (I won't say it's the whole truth. One side of the story never is) to Diebold and other eVoting machine vendors.

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Coat

Dozens of other countries do it ...

Yet we never seem to hear the problems they have. There's glitches and miscounts in ever election, paper or electronic. It's all part of the human condition.

I heard a while back that if the US was held to the same standard of consistent voting that third world countries are, that we would fail. Every state has its own voting commission that decides the layout and configuration of the ballot. If we all did it the same way, at least we'd have a consistent level of error (paper or electronic).

I agree with a few previous commentors. Windows isn't to blame, nor is electronic voting in general. It's shoddy requirements gathering, process modeling, and programming, combined with incomplete UAT (UAT Testing is redundant, much like PIN Number). Paper ballots are much easier to invalidate (a few "accidental" stray marks or an extra punch out) than electronic ones; if the same care went into programming the foundation of democracy as went into credit card processing, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Mine's the one with "Programming for Dummies" in the pocket...

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How possibly hard can it be to write voting software?

How possibly hard can it be to write voting software?

1) Show list of choices.

2) User picks a choice, record it.

3) Next user.

... later ...

1) Atomically copy all votes from all voting machines in a safe manner (sign the votes file with that voting machine's signing key, encrypt the votes with a public key that can't be decrypted by anything but the official counting server, and verify the data ended up on that SD card). Don't delete anything.

2) On the official vote counting server, verify that all data is valid and was encrypted with the public key and signed by the machine's key. Don't delete anything.

3) * Do NOT delete ANYTHING *

4) Show the number of votes.

I win. Give me money and I'll write it myself in two days... err I mean six months (if you're paying by the hour).

And why the hell isn't this software's source open for everyone to see? How can we trust it? Oh we can't.. that's why this is even an issue. Open the damned source so we can see where else you're fucking us over.

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I don't buy it

OK, so they found a bug. One that they lived with for 10 years. Windows has loads of bugs but we still find it works well enough.

This is not a bug it's a fish, a red herring.

The idea of erasing the cards could be similar to 'beam me up Scottie' in that the votes are transfered into the counting system so the original has to be destroyed. Otherwise they may get counted again if the card is re-inserted.

That might be the design phlosophy but we can all think of a better way of doing the same thing wilst making sure the memory card does not get double counted.

I feel the real reason they like the card wiped is to make a recount impossible. The real bug is why they would want to prevent a recount.

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Write Once Media

By erasing the card you are erasing the original record, so a recount or any kind of validation of results at a later date is impossible. Why not use write once media (CDR?), with a unique serial number on each disk. The media could be securely stored for recount purposes once the votes have been counted. Also, using two vote counting systems, from different suppliers, would validate the result.

Seems easy and sensible to me.

Never delete the input records.

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Details would be nice

But one doubts they'll every be forthcoming.

A simple scenario that would satisfy the conditions in the article would be for each compact flash to have a votes.xls file that when plugged in to the vote collector machine copies votes.xls to some share and then wipes it from the compact flash, probably in the name of data security.

Of course if the tabulator hasn't finished with one votes.xls before the next votes.xls gets copied into the share.....

What would be fun to see is a class action suit from the last ten years worth of election losers aimed at Diebold.

ps - David Halko, if only you were as correct as you are certain.

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Black Helicopters

Yes Diebold, you remember..

The company who's CEO said during the 2004 election "We'll do whatever it takes to get Bush re-elected"

The same company that published a photo on its website of the actual keys that fit EVERY SINGLE voting machine (and many many people can make usable keys from those pics).

The SAME company who's voting machines are so riddled with back doors and security holes that you don't need to vote, just let Diebold (now hiding behind a new name) vote for you.

Hell! why not have the mob take your votes for you, and let them rig it the way they want to.

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