Feeds

back to article Ohio voting machines have 'backdoor', lawsuit claims

The software used in Ohio voting machines contain a backdoor that would allow third-parties to change electronic votes, claims a lawsuit filed by local Green Party candidate Bob Fitrakis. The lawsuit, filed on Monday afternoon against Ohio's Republican Secretary of State John Husted, claims that on September 18 he hired Election …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

"pen and paper is more efficient."

Well of course it is but it's just being selfish. How are the lawyers who specialize in political wrangling to make an exorbitant wage? Did you ever think of that? No, you didn't! Did you ever consider who has the thankless job of running this country? That's right, lawyers who specialize in political wrangling. Don't they deserve some modicum of comeuppance?

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Yes but...

Yes, pen & paper is more efficient, but then hacking the voting machines to give the desired outcome is so much more civilized than declaring war on Iraq just to get the patriotic vote.

4
4
Silver badge
Unhappy

I find it curious that the authorities in the US seem to be determined to not investigate the security of their voting systems. There seem to be so many relatively obvious flaws in the current procedure you just can't help wondering if there is a hidden agenda.

10
0
Silver badge
Holmes

Maybe not.

The latest "IEEE Security and Privacy" - "e-voting security edition" has this to say in the article "Electronic Voting Security 10 Years after the Help America Vote Act"

(That article is paywalled here but apparently free here. IEEE show really start to gets its act together).

"Merle S. King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, and Brian Hancock, director of voting system testing and certification at the US Election Assistance Commission,

discuss e-voting security 10 years after the Help America Vote Act."

The Help America Vote Act was ratified in 2002, dumping millions of dollars into the voting system market and resulting in a major shift from mechanical to electronic voting machines. Shortly thereafter, several academic studies on the security of these e-voting systems emerged. What’s your perception of e-voting system security in the first few years after HAVA?

Merle S. King: In general terms, the e-voting security movement wrapped too much around the security issue. Don’t get me wrong; security is very important, and e-voting introduced new challenges. But if proper procedures were followed, the machines were safe—we now have a history of thousands of anomaly-free elections conducted on DREs [direct-recording electronic voting machines].

Brian Hancock: I agree. The voting systems that caused the most fuss weren’t network connected, and the attacks that succeeded and were reported happened in a laboratory environment. I would like to have seen more realistic testing conducted in operational environments, with the normal electoral protections in place. As it was, exceptional security weaknesses were portrayed as normal, and situations that rarely occur were represented as common. DRE voting systems remain in wide use, and we still don’t have any reported incidents of confirmed security breaches with them.

0
1
Bronze badge

re: maybe not

we still don’t have any reported incidents of confirmed security breaches with them.

With respect to bugs and backdoors in voting systems: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

This is particularly true with closed, proprietary black box systems that are not double-checked after the election. That's even if it's possible to validate it after the fact, and the box didn't just silently change things without leaving a permanent record.

5
0
Bronze badge
Facepalm

A slight logical flaw...

The major criticism of these electronic voting machines is that they do not provide a proper audit trail that would reveal voting anomalies. So how is, "a history of thousands of anomaly-free elections" any evidence against the criticism? It is exactly the result you would expect if the criticism was true.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: re: maybe not

Although if Bruce Schneier wins tomorrows election by a landslide - we have reasonable grounds for suspicion

1
0

Audit Trail

I voted in California tonight. It was an electronic machine. In addition to the electronic tally, it makes a print out of your votes as a paper audit trail which each voter checks against the on-screen votes before casting their ballot.

No idea what other States / Counties do.

Also noted tamper evident seals on the IO ports of the machines.

Realize nothing is fool proof, but its not like we are voting using a nintendo here.

Totally understand the concerns regarding fraud however.

3
0
Silver badge
Boffin

The US is the ONLY democracy in teh world where elections are not overseen by an independent authority but by located (i.e. partisan) officials, which is why it's quite common for the electoral authorities themselves to try some dirty tricks such as not having enough voting booths / machines and/or closing polling stations early in areas where their rival is stronger.

Regarding e-voting machines, they CAN work well as long as certain conditions are met: Get the machine to issue a paper receipt that the voter can check matches his/her vote, and the receipt is popped into a ballot box. If there is any doubt or discrepancy, the paper record is waht counts. Print the receipt on a proper printer not one of those that has ink that fades after a few days. Physically secure the machines the same way you would secure paper ballots and ballot boxes. And most importantly, DO NOT CONNECT THE FRIGGIN' MACHINE TO THE INTERNET!!!

2
1
Silver badge

@Frumious Bandersnatch

Without commenting on the specific security of electronic systems and/or their paper trails, there is a much more deep rooted problem in the American voting system: multiple vote fraud. Tea Party attempts to require IDs at polling locations is an attempt to address the problem, but even at that one doomed to failure because it can't prevent multiple registration across districts and states and abuse via absentee ballots.

Until we do it like they did it in Iraq and Afghanistan (purple thumbs) we won't know it was only one voter per elector.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: don't connect to internet

Tell you what. You leave your PC alone with me overnight and then you can use it tomorrow to count the votes. You can put tamper evident tape all the ports you want to. Then you hold your elections, and me and my buds will put a fiver each on the outcome.

Any takers?

If not, you aren't addressing the root problem on voting.

And yes, my personal preference is for the scantron ballots, neither chads nor mechanical devices nor PCs welcome.

0
0
FAIL

why they don't use pen and paper

I looked into this during the whole kerfuffle back when Bush won over Gore. In Florida there were something like 30 (or more) individual votes that needed to be cast by electors on polling day. School board, dog catcher, police chief etc etc. given the volume of votes, it's no wonder they use machines like 'chads' to make the process a bit quicker. If they just restricted the voting to a couple of important things ( like for the president), they could probably use simple and secure pen and paper. The problem is all the other pissy jobs that people think they have to elect people into. Some times, too much democracy isn't a good thing.

1
1

Re: why they don't use pen and paper

As a student, I recall taking machine-scored multiple choice tests with many many questions, using a pencil to fill in the little bubbles. If somebody cannot handle 30 for reasons that are not due to a physical disability, perhaps they should reconsider voting at all.

But yes, I'm not quite sure why some local positions are elected and not appointed. Would anyone suggest electing the Secretary of Defense?

4
0

Re: why they don't use pen and paper

"Would anyone suggest electing the Secretary of Defense?"

Not such a stupid suggestion, lots of people (whether justifiably or not) might prefer people in government to come from a range of political parties.

For example, (in the UK at least) floating voters tend to trust the Tories more to handle immigration and criminal justice and Labour to handle health and welfare. These people would probably quite like a Labour politician in charge of the Health Ministry alongside a Tory in charge of Justice.

The real power would be with whoever decides where the budget goes - something which would need a strong democratic input.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: why they don't use pen and paper

They *do* in New York as of this year, and my American wife hates the system because a ballot can be rejected silently when it is scanned optically.

The key feature required is a hard copy receipt of what the machine is going to report you said your vote was, along with much higher levels of confidence in the hardware and software involved. Tales of tech-related vate rigging are still being told concerning Bush-Gore for Azathoth's sake.

But such receipts would require extra machinery and that would be expensive, so like the other expensive things such as child education and preventative health care New York is busy defunding, it will never happen.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

proprietary software the US Government isn't allowed to see

proprietary software the US Government isn't allowed to see but purchases anyway to run voting machines. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

I'm not an IT professional, but have always been interested in IT. I was under the impression that whenever a sufficiently large purchase was made, such as by a Government, that the source code would be available for the purchasing body to review.

There are not many systems more important than a voting machine, so how is it that the source code is not available for review. I also question what would be so revolutionary in the code as to require that level of secrecy.

2
0
Silver badge
Pint

Re: proprietary software the US Government isn't allowed to see

Well, it wouldn't really be the "purchasing body" that would review it in this case. It would be posted on an FTP server and IT Security departments all over the world would then have a go. A reasonable step to take.

That would only be the first step - after that you have to be sure that the operational procedures are correct and secure and reliable and traceable, that the code on the machine is the correct one, that the overall tabulation is correct etc. etc.

I remember the Diebold voting machines barfing all over themselves ... well, I fear there may be overall shameful code, possibly a shared codebase with who-knows-what (ATMs, maybe?) which the companies involved don't want to see aired. At all. Because lawsuits might fly.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: proprietary software the US Government isn't allowed to see

"what would be so revolutionary in the code as to require that level of secrecy?"

-> Intentional and/or unintentional back doors, bugs and a general shit-heap of poorly written code.

For the government to use such software without being able to check the source code is beyond retarded. You could also make an argument that the source code should be open, not just to some government officials (who, lets face it probably couldn't understand it anyway), but to the public. The public is *supposed* to be electing the government, and should be able to see how the process (including any technology that aids in carrying out part of the process).

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: proprietary software the US Government isn't allowed to see

So the grubbyment can pull Huawei to pieces and find nothing wrong, but still declare it unsafe, yet can't touch their own voting system and so trust it?

Self interest and wads of cash talk eh?

5
0
Bronze badge

@Xion

Indeed, it isn't just vote for your MP and be off here, so electronic tabulation is attractive. Let me add that local offices can make a real difference to your day to day life. It may interest the UK not at all to know who's one the school board in Peoria, but to the parents and property owners of Peoria it will matter a great deal.

The lust for computerized voting I think comes from our deep-down belief that newer is better. The belief tends to be held the more firmly the less the believer knows about technology.

0
0

Re: @Xion

Ok, I'll bite <:-)>

I've never understood how 'electing' an official is inherently better than said official being appointed through a competitive process designed to select the best applicant (and yes, I know that the process can be subverted). I've also never understood why it's so important to know the political views of the local dog catcher. I can see why you would want a say in who is on the School board, but not why you'd have a school board in the first place (shouldn't the curriculum be set by professional educators).

Another poster made mention of the fact that if people can't complete a ballot with 30 choices, they shouldn't be voting. I'm sorry but western politicians, by their nature, seem to pander to the lowest common demnominator, so people of differing abilities will be voting. Additionally, given the low voter turnout in US elections, I'd have thought making the process as simple and efficient as possible would be in the interests of a truly participatory democracy.

And while I'm on the subject...what's with getting people to vote on a Tuesday? It certainly doesn't enfranchise those on minimum wage, working long hours who probably wouldn't be given time off work to vote.

PS if my local school was run by a 'Board', I probably would want a say on who's on the board.

I guess at the end of the day, every four years the same thing happens.....a bunch of horses run around in a circle in Australia and two blokes apply for the same job in the US. It doesn't really matter whether the winner is a horse or a human.

0
2

Pen and paper have a great lot of advantages over electronic voting systems:

- cheap: incredibly cheap.

- Does not need technical personnel

- Is portable. You don't need to wire remote locations just for the elections.

- The ballot boxes are usually transparent or with big windows, which make vote stuffing hard

- political parties and common citizens alike can watch the vote-counting procedure

Last week here in Chile was a big election. Each city elected their mayor for the next four years.

And there are several cities where the process has been objected.

Solution: have a manual counting of ballots.

The confront that account with the data held by the officers in charge, the voting local officers and the political parties officers present in each voting local, who in almost all the cases took pictures of the voting totals published in each local and of each voting station, in addition to their own manual counts.

Is a simple process, with many observation points.

True, is boring and sometimes just plainly disappointing. Especially if, as is my case, in charge of a voting station for 9th time.

But, as your Winston Churchill said:

"Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

But for that sentence to be true, a very secure and tamper proof system is needed.

R

5
0
Silver badge

hush you

The greatest thing to happen to voting is the absentee ballot (postal ballot). Being able to vote in the comfort of my own home where there are no surprises and I can take my time are priceless. Not to mention a clear paper trail unlike the wiz bang electronic machines as mentioned in this article. F__k wasting any more of my life in lines (queues) than is absolutely necessary.

0
2
Flame

Re: hush you

The trouble is that postal ballots are readily subject to fraud of several type;

False applications

Intercepted ballot papers

Forced voting - where one person in a household or community ensures that everybody votes in an approved way

They should be banned unless you can provide a medical certificate to say that you are physically unable to get to a polling station

6
0
FAIL

Re: hush you

"They (postal votes) should be banned unless you can provide a medical certificate to say that you are physically unable to get to a polling station"

So all the British forces serving overseas should not get a postal vote? Or people working off-shore on board merchant ships or oil and gas platforms? Or lorry drivers who will be working away on polling day? Or.......

The list is huge, unlike the intelligence that went into your post.

1
4
Silver badge

Re: hush you

But postal ballots mean that the $Bn spent on TV attack ads in the last week of campaigning is wasted.

Whats the point of both candidates flying around the country being photographed filing hurricane sandbags and kissing babies if selfish people have already voted based on "the issues"?

Don't you care about the poor starving TV executives?

1
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: hush you

As corruptible as postal or electronic voting is, we still need to push forward with it. We just need to get it right.

Turn-out at polling stations is simply too low for our government to have much in the way of real legitimacy, to my mind. Surely it's better that 95% of people vote and a small minority of that is hacked or cheated, than only a small minority of voters bothering to vote at all?

0
1
Bronze badge
Pint

E-ballots

E-ballots worked just fine in our local elections. Our new mayor was elected in a landslide with a huge margin of 7,862,783,873,256 votes.

Uh, wait a second...

1
0
Coat

Re: E-ballots

Err, wait a minute. You forgot about numeric overflow. Looks like the result of that election was 0 votes to -2,993,721,576 votes (Err, a negative vote total? Hmm...). ;-)

Dave

P.S. I'll get my coat; it's the one with the pockets full of chads.

0
1
Silver badge

Absentee ballots, pen and paper problems...

If this guy is to be believed, it's a tad sensationalist for my mind...

http://www.gregpalast.com/democracy-now-ohio-wrong-ballots-for-black-voters-investigation-uncovers-thousands-at-risk-of-ballot-loss/

1
0
Silver badge
Holmes

Re: Absentee ballots, pen and paper problems...

Can't be reached. Greg Palast is pretty solid AFAIK, but isn't this this "sharp practices" story from 2005 (so long ago already...) by Chris Floyd:

The copious documentation of the Bush fraud keeps growing. Last month, experts using actual machines and returns from the 2004 election showed Congress how a lone hacker could skew a precinct's results by 100,000 votes without leaving a trace. More than 40 million votes in 30 states were cast on such computer systems, BlackBoxVoting noted.

Late last year, Congress heard sworn testimony from Florida programmer Clint Curtis, who created vote-rigging software in 2000 at the request of Tom Feeny, a Bush Family factotum. Feeny wanted Curtis (a fellow Republican) and his employer, Yang Enterprises, to produce untraceable programs that could "control the vote" as needed, investigator Brad Friedman reported. Feeny also told Curtis of Bush plans to "suppress the black vote" with "exclusion lists." This is exactly what happened. BBC investigator Greg Palast has shown that tens of thousands of legitimate African-American voters were deliberately "purged" from the rolls by a private Republican-controlled corporation hired by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Afterwards, Feeny -- who had been Jeb's running mate in his first gubernatorial campaign -- was rewarded for his dutiful service with a plum congressional seat.

In 2002, Raymond Lemme, a Florida state government inspector, took up Curtis' charges, which included other corruption allegations involving Feeny, Yang Enterprises and a Yang employee charged with peddling military technology to the Chinese. In June 2003, Lemme told Curtis he had "tracked the corruption all the way to the top" and that "the story would break in a few weeks." On July 1, 2003, Lemme was found dead in a Georgia hotel room, just across the Florida border.

Local police ruled that Lemme, a happily married man eagerly planning his daughter's wedding, had suddenly decided to slash his wrists. At first they said there were no photos of the death scene; but then the pictures turned up on the Internet and were confirmed as authentic by the embarrassed police. The photos clearly contradicted the original suicide report on several points -- presenting evidence, for example, that Lemme had been beaten before his death. The investigation was reopened after Curtis' Congressional testimony -- and then abruptly shut down after local police spoke to a never-identified "someone" in the Florida state government...

0
0
IT Angle

PA Touchscreen was not calibrated.

Hearing reports that the touchscreen on the machine wasn't calibrated in PA. The Ohio problem, though, if it's a paperwork/audit issue, needs an audit.

1
0

Re: PA Touchscreen was not calibrated.

Well, yes. If it was *really* set up to register votes for Obama for Romney instead, then it would surely be more effective to do so WITHOUT BROADCASTING THE FACT TO THE VOTER.

And this is the point about electronic voting machines - the voter has absolutely no assurance that the machine has recorded his vote correctly. Paper audit trail doesn't do a darned thing - there's no guarantee that what is printed out is what it recorded internally, and the audit trail will only be actually checked if there is a close result. Not if there is a mysteriously different result to what polls were saying.

Because you can't trust the programmer of the machine to be honest (even if you have the source code to the voting software, you can't guarantee that it wasn't compiled by a compiler incorporating duplicitous code), you *have* to put the counting process in the hands of a group of humans who can be overseen by other humans, in the hope that it's harder for candidates, parties or other interests to subvert the whole group.

1
0
Silver badge
Pint

Old Country?

Ireland has a load of eVoting machines for sale.

One suggestion was to sell them to Irish Themed pubs abroad.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Old Country?

Too late - they were scrapped, and have all been recycled.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0829/1224323181538.html

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: Voting Machine Company ..

Yeah but so what. It's not as if an investor suddenly loads his voting code into the machine.

0
0
Bronze badge
Paris Hilton

The Green Party?

Just give them their three votes and be done with it.

Paris, because she's a party kind of gal.

0
1
Pint

That video is of a calibration issue

Despite claims to the contrary, that video is due to a calibration issue. (Although it may have been intentionally mis-calibrated). It's explained here:

http://erratasec.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-voting-machines-suck.html

2
0
Bronze badge
FAIL

Re: That video is of a calibration issue

This one also looks like a calibration issue...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aBaX9GPSaQ

0
0

I live in Ohio...

I can't speak about the rest of the sate, but in the North East Area (Cleveland Metro area), Columbus, and Toledo the ballots are paper that you fill in a bubble on. When you're done, you take the paper to the poll worker who scans them into a huge dustbin that is locked up with the scanner built into the top. None of these "touch screens" or ATM style voting.

Or you can respond to the letter the state mails to every voter and get your paper ballot in the mail. you fill out the bubbles and mail it back to the state. Again, no touch screens, lines, rude poll workers, etc. Or you can show up at the BOE office and fill out the paper ballot in person the week before the election.

Of course all this gets Ohio a bill for several millions more each year than just one day of in person voting...but they make up for that with a voter turn out the same as all other states in the region with one day in person voting.

2
0

What's the rush?

"Yes, getting the results can be slow"

Who cares if it takes 2 hours or 24 hours to get the results - we'll be stuck with them for 4 or 5 years anyway!

The only beneficiary of opinion polls and quick counts is the Media - as if $2 BILLION dollars on ads isn't enough!

7
0
Anonymous Coward

US Civics 101

OK, since many of you quite logically have not had US Civics 101, since you don't live here, let me give you a quick run down on the issues around voting here.

1) Voting is regulated largely state by state. Remember that the design concept of the US is a bunch of more-or-less sovereign states, sort of like what the EU is trying to be. So just as Germany cannot tell England how to conduct their votes, Maine cannot tell Kansas how to conduct its votes. Before you suggest we change that, I would suggest you ask yourself if you WANT Germany to be able to tell you how to conduct your votes.

2) Voting isn't just for the President. There are a host of other items on the ballot - Federal level senators and representatives, state level representatives and senators, local issues, and various other locally elected officials - so we cannot have one ballot for everywhere.

3) Voting may be different for different locales. Depending upon precisely WHERE in the district I live, I may have a different ballot, even from somebody else voting at the same voting location.

4) One of the design concerns we have in our system is preventing the following scenario: I work for Dr. Evil. Dr. Evil issues a memo: "You WILL vote for MiniMe for judge. You WILL bring me proof of this. If you don't, you WILL feed the alligators in the pit." In order to prevent that, we do not allow anybody to have any form of receipt that could be used to prove how they voted - you aren't even allowed to use your cell phone, so you cannot take a picture of your ballot. Hence, there is no way I can provide Dr. Evil with proof of how I voted, so I am free to say "Sure, I voted for MiniMe". All of these "let me have a receipt so I can check if my vote was counted right" need to work in a way that Dr. Evil cannot put the thumbscrews on me to insure I voted "correctly".

Now, I will admit: one of the driving factors for e-voting is the mindset of "WE WANT TO KNOW WHO WON - NOW!!!!!!!". If we could just get everybody to be willing to wait a few days we could do hand counted ballots, but this "we must know for the 6'oclock news (and so what if the Hawaiians are still voting - screw them!)" would not allow the time for hand counting.

3
1
Silver badge

Re: US Civics 101

Thank you for that cogent explanation David. The only point I'd make is in respect of point 1); if UK voters were voting for a *European president*, it would seem reasonable to expect the Germans (etc) to have a say in the mechanics of the UK voting process. In such an election, then as a UK citizen, I'd be concerned about reports of flaws in the German voting process.

4
0

Re: US Civics 101

Point 4 is trivial to solve.

You get a print out of your vote, then place this in a ballot box. The first count is done electronically, but If there are calls for a recount it is the paper printouts which are recounted not the electronic register - this greatly protects against hacking based fraud and ensures that people don't go home with proof.

4
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: US Civics 101

Yeah, that'd work: Use the electronic box for printing out a legible voting form and initial poll results, and use the paper ballots for the confirmation count and for voters to visibly be reassured that their vote is 'true'.

Wow... three up-votes in a row: I must be ill.

Hilariously I was told by an American yesterday that the UK campaigning rules which prevent candidates having huge budgets, from using TV advertising, fair representation in debate, no cold-calling et cetera wouldn't work in the US, because the US is 'too technologically advanced'. Go figure.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Tradition

Here in the Glorious Democratic Peoples Republic of Australia, voting is compulsory.

Failure to vote attracts a hefty fine.

It is also done on paper, with the result that the ballot paper for the senate often resembles a tablecloth.

A side affect of compulsory voting is the huge assortment of crudely drawn penises that accumulate in the tally room on election night. Sadly, these are never judged, and this impressive pool of creative talent is lost to future generations.

The use of electronic voting machines would prevent this artistic expression, and would therefore be an unwarranted and unpopular restriction on our sacred traditions. It would possibly also violate our implied constitutional right to political free speech.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Tradition

Why not incorporate it into the election process?

You draw a penis alongside the candidate you want.

Or if you introduce Single Transferable Vote - you rank the candidates by the erectness of the penis

1
0
Facepalm

Famous last words

"There's no vulnerability to the system whatsoever."

Having worked in IT for more than 10 minutes, I wouldn't say something like this about anything short of a ZX81 locked in a safe.. located deep underground. Deep in a Pool. protected by sharks. With lasers.

Even then. might be tempting fate.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Famous last words

Even if you put it in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard', someone will eventually get into it.

I'm trying to remember who said, long before computers were around, something like "Any system, no matter how well secured, is not 100% invulnerable."

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.