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DC Internet Voting Trial Attacked 2 Different Ways 123

Posted by timothy
from the but-don't-worry dept.
mtrachtenberg writes "University of Michigan Professor J. Alex Halderman and his team actually had two completely separate successful attacks on Washington, DC's internet voting experiment. The second path in was revealed by Halderman during testimony before the District of Columbia's Board of Elections and Ethics on Friday. Apparently, a router's master password had been left at the default setting, enabling Halderman to access the system by a completely different method than SQL injection. He presented photographs of a video stream from the voting offices. In addition, he found a file that had apparently been left on the test system contained the PINs of the 900+ voters who would have used the system in November. Others on the panel joined Halderman in pointing out that it was not just this specific implementation of internet voting that was insecure, but the entire concept of using today's internet for voting at all. When a DC official asked why internet voting could not be made secure when top government secrets were secure on the internet, Halderman responded that a big part of keeping government secrets secret was not allowing them to be stored on internet-connected computers. When a DC official asked the panel whether public key infrastructure couldn't allow secure internet voting, a panel member pointed out that the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, was a signatory to the letter that had been sent to DC, urging officials there not to proceed with internet voting. Clips from the testimony are available on YouTube." Update: 10/09 19:24 GMT by T : Reader Cwix points out two newspaper stories noting these hearings: one in the Washington Post, the other at the Chicago Tribune. Thanks!
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DC Internet Voting Trial Attacked 2 Different Ways

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:16PM (#33846486)

    to mod me up to +5 informative, to show it does work perfectly!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TheP4st (1164315)
      Troll or not, Anomynous Coward do have a valid point.
    • I vote we continue with Internet voting.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Miseph (979059)

        Question: if we use internet voting, will that impede voter intimidation, ballot stuffing, creative counting or any of the other traditional methods of rigging elections proudly used in this country since the 18th century? Because if so, I've been informed it doesn't matter what I vote, and if not then I've been informed it still doesn't.

    • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:02PM (#33848196) Journal

      There's an even bigger problem: selling votes.

      If I'm allowed to vote at home criminals can use threats and/or bribes to convince me to vote in their presence so they can be sure that I voted exactly how they wanted.

      That's why vote must always be strictly secret and voters must always have plausible deniability about their choices. E.g. in most modern democracies voters are prohibited from taking photos inside the voting booth for exactly this reason: so anyone else cannot be sure of their votes, and threats and bribes to influence elections become much less effective.

      • by rufey (683902)

        Except for absentee voting, or voting my mail. Where I live (Utah), you can vote absentee by filling out a ballot at home (or abroad if you are not currently in the state) and mailing it in. Whats to prevent someone from paying you to vote a certain way, by having you fill out the ballet, giving it to them, and if you have followed their instructions, they pay you and they put the ballot in the envelope and mail it for you.

        Further, in the county where I live, they are providing a "vote by mail permanently

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by makomk (752139)

          Whats to prevent someone from paying you to vote a certain way, by having you fill out the ballet, giving it to them, and if you have followed their instructions, they pay you and they put the ballot in the envelope and mail it for you.

          Not a lot, which is why the availability of absentee ballots has often been strictly regulated and monitored. A few years ago, the UK tried an experiment in some areas in which all voting was by mail and there were no ballot boxes. There were some fairly impressive issues with fraud - people from the Labour party were going door-to-door, collecting people's blank ballots and filling them in.

      • What about all those "botnets" you see in the news?

        Strength of cryptographic algorithms, etc., is completely irrelevant when people vote by visiting a web page using their home PC.

  • Facts don't matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by webnut77 (1326189)

    When a DC official asked the panel whether public key infrastructure couldn't allow secure internet voting, a panel member pointed out that the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, was a signatory to the letter that had been sent to DC, urging officials there not to proceed with internet voting.

    Just another example of our government ignoring the facts in favor of doing whatever they want.

    • by Xaositecte (897197) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:35PM (#33846586) Journal

      What I've never understood;

      Many of the companies famous for building voting machines also built their reputations building ATMs and such.

      ATMs are, to the best of my knowledge, tremendously secure, even when you have physical access to the machine. Basically, when people money is on the line, they do not fuck around at all.

      Why then are they making voting machines less secure than ATMs? The expertise clearly exists to do it properly, the only explanation I can see is intentional sabotage of the voting process.

      • by _Sharp'r_ (649297) <sharper.booksunderreview@com> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:46PM (#33846660) Homepage Journal

        Why then are they making voting machines less secure than ATMs?

        You clearly don't understand enough about ATMs if you think they are more secure than voting machines.

        Most ATMs are just barely secure enough to keep the cash from walking away as long as someone can keep a physical eye on the machine (something somewhat inhibited for voting machines by private voting requirements). ATMs generally do a decent job of recording and reporting transactions to a remote server so that when money invariably is stolen (physically or electronically) it can eventually be taken from the correct legally accountable bank account.

        A variety of ATMs suffer from default passwords that aren't changed, physical cabinet keys that aren't unique, eavesdropping attacks in the form of card skimmers and cameras, unencrypted transmissions, insecure operating systems, administrative backdoors, etc...

        ATMs and voting machines suffer from what are essentially illusions of security that rely on no one smart enough to bypass them having the real desire and resources to do so. When voting machines determine how real power in large amounts is distributed (say, in national elections), they can't hope to stand up to what's at stake unless they are simple enough to be essentially transparent in function to the public.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by HungryHobo (1314109)

          ATM's are fairly hardened, at least in comparison to most voting machines.
          If anything they should learn more from gaming machines. many states have extremely strict rules for how gaming machines have to be auditable(to make sure the casino is following state regulations), hardened in very specific ways and in general vastly more secure than any voting machine I've ever heard of.

          and yet when it comes time to buy voting machines do they think to apply roughly the same regulations?
          god no.
          Instead they get a 100

          • by Sique (173459) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:21PM (#33848310) Homepage

            Electronic voting still can't solve a simple thing:

            To make each vote proven unique and untrackable at the same time.

            With paper it's easy. Each piece of paper is unique by virtue of being a real object. Electronic votes are data, and data is limitless copyable, so the only way to warrant a piece of data is unique is giving it a unique ID, at which moment it becomes trackable.

            • With paper it's easy.

              what universe are you from?
              the dead rise to vote, ballot boxes appear in the counting room stuffed with "legitimate" ballots, people vote early and often and ballots are simply miscounted or lost.
              Most of the problems people raise with electronic voting are equally a problem in normal paper voting(but they pretend it it isn't) and the other claimed problems are down to stupid things like connecting all the voting machines to the net and shitty security (in all it's forms). Crappy physical security is a probl

              • by DavidTC (10147)

                the dead rise to vote,

                That is not a ballot problem, that is a voter roll problem. It can happen just as easy with electronic voting.

                ballot boxes appear in the counting room stuffed with "legitimate" ballots,

                Yes, in 1920s Chicago. Not in the actual modern world, where ballot boxes are kept fairly careful track of.

                people vote early and often

                That is not a ballot problem, that is a voter roll problem. It can happen just as easy with electronic voting.

                and ballots are simply miscounted

                Uh, no. Ballo

                • wow, you have a chip on your shoulder that's more of a boulder don't you.

                  "That is not a ballot problem, that is a voter roll problem. It can happen just as easy with electronic voting."

                  it's a problem with the system as a whole.

                  "Yes, in 1920s Chicago. Not in the actual modern world, where ballot boxes are kept fairly careful track of."

                  really? You think that kind of fraud never happens any more?

                  "That is not a ballot problem, that is a voter roll problem. It can happen just as easy with electronic voting."

                  Abso

                  • by DavidTC (10147)

                    Here's the actual fact:

                    No system even vaguely close to what you pretend is ideal is even close to existing in the real world.

                    Meanwhile, your support of some sort of perfect electronic election has resulted in goddamn voting machines running MS Access that anyone can walk up to and tamper with.

                    Yes, I have a fucking chip on my shoulder about sophisticates who yammer about how something could, in some hypothetical universe, work magically and perfectly. Something that is actually being done, in the real wor

                    • bullshit

                      You're a fucking idiot.
                      But feel free to set up the worlds biggest and most absurd strawman.
                      Ya, I'm not supporting setting up a fucking decent electronic system and requiring audited hardware and proven code.

                      No, I'm calling for MS access databases storing voting records and whatever POS diabold can pull out of it's arse!
                      Great, now we've established that rather than advocating a sane system I'm actually advocating whatever your diseased little brain can imagine as the worst possible system feel free t

              • by mpe (36238)
                the dead rise to vote, ballot boxes appear in the counting room stuffed with "legitimate" ballots, people vote early and often and ballots are simply miscounted or lost.

                All of these appear to be due to a lack of transparency and scrutiny. How do dead people get recorded as able to vote without there being massive fraud in the first place? In which case things are broken before any "election" takes place. If you are concerned about people trying to vote more than once you mark them with fluorescent ink. It
            • by Machtyn (759119)
              There could be a way. It requires two transactions. This would be similar to proving you are a citizen and resident of the community and registered to vote in that community and then taking the paper to vote on. The first transaction is the user logon using the unique key they were given when they registered to vote. Then, when they vote, create a hash using the datetime with the vote selections (and a random number) to prove uniqueness of the vote.

              I'm still not convinced Internet voting is a good th
            • I suppose you could have the system print out the vote and only allow one print per ID. That can lead to some technical concerns. Also the question of whether or not that vote submitted, was altered in any way before it was print out due to the system already being compromised. I don't really see how you can have perfect voting system, whether it is electronic or not. They all have their own sort of failures.
            • by DavidTC (10147) < ... > <neverbox.com>> on Sunday October 10, 2010 @11:42AM (#33852180) Homepage

              And while paper ballots are not trackable at the vote level, you can physically keep track of them and know where they are at all times. You can sit there and watch the box, you can watch people add and remove things to the box. You can see the 'vote container' without actually seeing the votes, and know that no one can actually change the votes without adding or replacing or removing them from the container, which you could see.

              There's no way to do that with electronic voting. The votes can be tampered with without detection, because you're handing the entire ballot box to people every time they vote, where upon they take it into the booth with them and do whatever to it.

              Moreover, the people voting can't actually see their vote to start with.

              It's just insecure in so many ways, the entire concept is insecure. It's a lot like DRM, in fact...the fact they currently get broken by stupid security issues is sorta masking the fact the entire idea is stupid and unworkable.

              Electronic voting, incidentally, is a form of DRM. Except it's DRM where the programmers and system designers have motive to break it also, stopped only by a third party that doesn't understand any of this. So yeah.

              To quote Douglas Adams, 'their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.' The problem isn't any specific security flaws discovered at any specific time, the problem is the idea of non-physical voting, period, full stop, because all the methods we have to stop fraud are via paying attention to physical objects.

        • Also ATMs are regularly audited by most customers and banks. If they make any mistakes most people will catch them and complain. If the machines don't tally for the bank then they will look into it. But if your e-vote goes astray then good luck figuring that out.

          A paper vote is physical with interested parties scrutinizing their every move. Short of hiring 10,000 tight-lipped magicians for an election it is nearly impossible to steal an election in a western democracy.

          Plus if someone cheats and wins a
          • by mpe (36238)
            A paper vote is physical with interested parties scrutinizing their every move. Short of hiring 10,000 tight-lipped magicians for an election it is nearly impossible to steal an election in a western democracy.

            Whilst scrutineering of elections is common in Europe, Australasia and Canada this does not appear to be the case in the US.
        • by Karljohan (807381)

          An electronic voting system can NEVER be transparent enough for maintaining democracy. It is the people that need to be able to audit the voting procedure and the lowest common denominator for the people is the ability to count notes one by one.

          Any electronics will hide what's happening and then we leave the future of democracy to the trust in experts. Then it would be more fair to openly leave our democratic system and enter an era of a pure elitocratic system.

          • by mpe (36238)
            Any electronics will hide what's happening and then we leave the future of democracy to the trust in experts.

            Assuming these experts would be able to do anything anyway. e.g. Would they be allowed to randomly take a voting machine, drop it in liquid nitrogen, chop it up and examine the pieces with an electron microscope? Which is about the only way to find out what such a machine is actually doing.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        With ATM's, it's much easier to see if something has been tampered with. Historical data is being saved, and people on both sides of the transaction are keeping records and correlating things (at least in theory).

        With votes, keeping a significant historical log with detailed correlations between what 'client' made what input into the system is something that actually can't be kept, due to the anonymity of the voting process.

        So, from a strictly 'what is being done' context, there is definitely an additional

      • by mean pun (717227)

        The expertise clearly exists to do it properly, the only explanation I can see is intentional sabotage of the voting process.

        How about plain old money? You need a lot of voting machines to handle the entire voting population, and purpose-designed machines are expensive, even if they are modified PCs (as some of them seem to be). Not that all vendors are saints...

        Considering the costs, I can see the great attraction of internet voting for the organizers: you only need central servers (that you may even hire from Amazon or something), all other hardware is owned by the voter, and you don't even need personnel. I therefore have s

      • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @03:07PM (#33846772) Homepage

        IMO, things that work in the ATM's favour:

        1. There's strict accounting of whose account is being accessed.
        2. If you're going to hack an ATM, you have to have physical access to it.
        3. If you manage to steal money from an ATM, it'll be obvious. They just have to compare the amount of money there was inside with how much there should have been.

        This doesn't hold with voting machines. The voter doesn't have an account, so detecting something was manipulated is much harder. Also, the money is at the physical ATM. If you're hacking it remotely, then you're not where the money is, and if you're hacking it in person then you can be quite certain you were filmed by a camera. Also there's a lot of money in it, so the bank has a lot of incentives to try to catch you if you manage to steal some.

        • 2. If you're going to hack an ATM, you have to have physical access to it.

          You should never just assume things like that, even if it seems obvious. Assumption leads to complacency. Complacency leads to UFO theorists in your workstations.

          • by vadim_t (324782)

            I understand that an ATM can be potentially messed with remotely.

            But what people want from the ATM is money. If making a withdrawal even if you do something remotely you must eventually collect the money in person. And if you were to fake a deposit, eventually the bank will realize that the ATM has a record of money being deposited, but no physical money to match it.

      • by nelsonal (549144)
        No one cares if the bank can tie your transaction at the ATM directly to you, also banks only care that fraud stays low enough that it doesn't kill profitability, not the 0% standard that elections require.
      • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @01:50AM (#33850150) Homepage

        We're talking about internet voting, not voting machines. ie. People voting from their botnet-ridden home PCs.

        What's to stop a party from releasing a virus which triggers once on election day then deletes itself from disk? Such a virus could subvert the entire process, regardless of public keys, SSL, whatever.

      • by mpe (36238)
        Many of the companies famous for building voting machines also built their reputations building ATMs and such.
        ATMs are, to the best of my knowledge, tremendously secure, even when you have physical access to the machine.


        Thing is that they are not that secure, especially against bank employees. "Phantom withdrawls" being the most well known of these problems.
    • by Skal Tura (595728)

      The context of the letter should be known to say that Ronald Rivest was against this, was it because of security issues of certain nature, or potential security issues?

      I don't see why digests couldn't work as authorization.

      When user votes, for his vote a checksum is created using one-way algo (digest) which is formed from:
        Session ID, Voter name, Vote result, a unique key given only to voter and known only by voter and govt, date.

      Now crack that one ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AJWM (19027)

        When user votes, for his vote a checksum is created using one-way algo (digest) which is formed from:
            Session ID, Voter name, Vote result, a unique key given only to voter and known only by voter and govt, date.

        Now crack that one ;)

        It doesn't need to be cracked, it's already broken; that unique key known to the govt breaks voter anonymity.

        • by MalcolmT (1868)

          It also doesn't have plausible deniability any longer. A union leader or employer or gangster who has some hold over somebody can force them to prove their vote was cast in the pre-agreed fashion: the person has to show that their session id, name, result and what they claim is their key matches up with the hash. They can't fake the key, since creating a hash collision on demand for a pre-specified hash is still a hard mathematical problem. They have to know the session id, otherwise there's no verifiabilit

    • Just another example of our government ignoring the facts in favor of doing whatever they want.

      Ronald Rivest might be an incredibly intelligent person, but he's still just one guy. Just because he thinks that internet voting is currently a bad idea does not make it a "fact"

      (Also, the summary is light on details: The system was only being used for DC's ~900 registered overseas voters. Overseas voting is already notoriously insecure, as it's impossible to establish a legally-liable chain of custody of the ballot as it proceeds through the international postal system in a big fluorescent-yellow envelo

      • by mpe (36238)
        Overseas voting is already notoriously insecure, as it's impossible to establish a legally-liable chain of custody of the ballot as it proceeds through the international postal system in a big fluorescent-yellow envelope marked "ELECTION MAIL"

        It might be a better idea to use a plain brown envelope addressed to a random PO box. Also to send plenty of decoys...
    • Just another example of our government ignoring the facts in favor of doing whatever they want.

      Actually, after watching the YouTube video, I was impressed with the government official. She seemed to genuinely want a secure system that helped voters.

      Even after one of the scientists presenting said that ballot distribution would have far fewer problems, she pressed him on it, and even asked several questions that led the panel to explain how even ballot distribution could be manipulated.

  • Inventor? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:33PM (#33846574)

    > the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest,

    Rivest is a brilliant, very accomplished man, and was one of the inventors of one of the earliest and best-known public-key cryptosystems. But it's misleading to refer to him as "the" inventor of public-key cryptography in general. He co-invented RSA with Shamir and Adleman (several years after Cocks came up with it and kept it secret). But the concept of public-key cryptography was described before RSA, by such luminaries as Diffie, Hellman, and Merkle. He is certainly one of the pioneers of public-key crypto, and deserves acclaim for that, but is not "the" inventor of the concept.

    Incidentally, much of Rivest's recent work is in the area of electronic voting (how to make it simultaneously accurate/auditable, privacy-preserving, and usable by non-technical people)--so he's not just speaking as a luminary in the field, but as someone who has studied this specific problem.

    • by aug24 (38229)

      Who invents something? The person who comes up with an idea, or the person who comes up with the first working implementation?

      Diffie et al said, given a trapdoor function, we could make an encryption system. Rivest and Shamir made an effective trapdoor function.

    • Who cares if they get his credentials wrong-- its AMAZING they even remembered what the expert told them at all! Even then, they still attempted to do it when so many experts say its not feasible given the current requirements.

  • Actual article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cwix (1671282) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:37PM (#33846604)

    The youtube videos are all well and good.. heres a few links to written articles about this though

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/debonis/2010/10/prof_explains_how_dc_online_vo.html [washingtonpost.com]

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-dc-dcelections-heari,0,541741.story [chicagotribune.com]

    • Thanks for posting links to the articles. Given the state of the news media today, though, I'd encourage people to check out the actual words of Halderman and his fellow panelists. And regarding a separate comment... if I was in error about router vs. terminal server, and SQL vs shell injection, my apology.

  • by EvilSporkMan (648878) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:45PM (#33846654)
    It was a terminal server, not a router, and the previously-published attack was shell injection, not SQL injection.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Electronic voting always seemed to me like a solution looking for a problem.

    What, exactly, is it about paper ballots that makes electronic voting systems seem like such a better idea? Obviously it's easier to rig elections with electronic systems, which is a good reason to like electronic voting if you're a scumbag. Aside from the that, what reasons are there to replace a tried and true system that everybody already likes and prefers?

    • by NiteMair (309303) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:53PM (#33846704)

      Obviously it's easier to rig elections with electronic systems, which is a good reason to like electronic voting if you're a scumbag.

      I think you answered your own question there...

    • by iris-n (1276146)

      Obviously it's easier to rig elections with electronic systems

      [citation needed]

      Actually there's quite a long history of election rigging in the US with paper ballots.

      • He said "easier", not "suddenly possible".

        With paper, you have to hand count it and there's observers from each party there. Then there's simply the paper itself. You need to bring in extra ballots and/or dispose of many.

        With an insecure electronic system, it might be as easy as typing in a new count number. Observers may not understand the tech so swapping programs or hardware could be done right under their nose. Programs aren't open source and are not available to scrutinize. They could give differe

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AJWM (19027)

          Programs aren't open source and are not available to scrutinize.

          Yes and no. The EAC (Election Assistance Commission, formerly the Federal Elections Commission) has a very fat book full of regulations and specifications to which voting systems should be certified. (Technically certification is voluntary, in practice many states and counties will only approve certified systems for purchase.) The testing and certification is done by independent Voting System Testing Laboratories (VSTLs). Testing covers ever

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            Yes, there are a lot of rules and regulations...

            ...none of which actually get followed. See blackboxvoting.org for more information about uncertified 'patches' applied during elections, spare memory card lying around that non one can explain what they're for or what's one them, and obviously faked tallies to match reported tallies, and databases that don't match each other, etc, etc, etc.

            • by AJWM (19027)

              It's hardly the case that "none" of them get followed.

              Yes, uncertified patches and extraneous memory cards happen -- at the point where the systems are under the control of the county election officials. Those same folks who could -- if they'd a mind to -- tamper with plain old paper balloting too. Nobody said the system was perfect. There's a mechanism (the independent VSTLs and certification) for making reasonably sure the machines aren't compromised by the vendor, but that still needs to be supplemen

              • by DavidTC (10147)

                Those same folks who could -- if they'd a mind to -- tamper with plain old paper balloting too.

                Which is why we make them do it in PUBLIC. Where we can SEE it.

                You know, what we can't do with electronic ballots.

        • by iris-n (1276146)

          With paper, you have to hand count it

          AFAIK the US use some bizarre system of optical counting; never hand counts. Actually you tried to hand count it in Florida 2000, but the Supreme Court stopped it.

          Again, how is that more secure?

          Observers may not understand the tech

          They already don't understand the tech to do optical counting. Electronic voting is simpler. And if you never use, of course no one is going to understand it.

          Programs aren't open source and are not available to scrutinize

          That is unacceptable, but evidently not a required part of electronic voting. Brasil uses open-source software in the voting machines.

          If they're connected to the internet

          Even the government knows

    • The press needs to report on the results as soon as possible to stay relevant. If the results come out the next day at noon then no one is going to be watching CNN, et al, all night waiting for the results. BTW, does anyone really think it's a coincidence that elections happen in the middle of November sweeps? (it is a just a coincidence but that wouldn't help make my point, now would it?)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by feenberg (201582)

        Maybe sweeps are in November because that is when the elections are? Anyway the problem with electronic voting is not only that it is hard to do right, but also that it is impossible to show the average voter that it has been done right. With paper ballots and each party having a representative at the polling place and at the counting, voters are willing to believe the count is accurate. The offer to examine the source code is less convincing. Saying that the source code has been examined by someone paid fo

    • by MachDelta (704883)

      They mention it in one of the videos, but basically e-voting would be excellent for US citizens abroad, specifically those deployed in the military.

      One would also hope that, if internet voting were to ever be successful, there would be a substantial increase in voter turnout. Imagine casting your vote from a candidates Facebook page, for instance.

      In any case, teh intertubes is far too cluttered with evil things that go bump in the night for this to be a sane idea in 2010.

    • by AJWM (19027)

      What, exactly, is it about paper ballots that makes electronic voting systems seem like such a better idea?

      At a guess, I'd say the anon poster above is familiar with voting in countries other than the US.

      For various arcane reasons, the US has regularly scheduled election days where just about every government position, from President down to county coroner (or even dogcatcher) is voted on on the same day. That would require a paper ballot (or collection thereof) on the order of a phone book. It's even wo

    • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:21PM (#33847532) Homepage Journal

      Obviously it's easier to rig elections with electronic systems

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.

      Let us say you have an electronic ballot system, where the voter's registration card has a public encryption key. The ballot is then encrypted using that key. The corresponding private key is in a central computer, with no record linking it to the public key (thus preserving anonymity). This allows the central computer to verify that any one encryption key is used once and only once (one person cannot cast more than one vote), and that no vote that is counted comes from a person without a valid encryption key (so all votes are from people). Let us also say that observers and election officials are supplied with crytographic hashes of the unencrypted ballots at the time of the vote being cast. The total number of votes tallied at the end must equal the total number of cryptographic hashes if no fraud was perpetrated. Since the hash will uniquely identify the cast vote (without identifying what any individual voted), stolen votes (votes injected into the system by an attacker) would be readily identifiable as they would not match a hash. Fraudulent votes could then be eliminated and replaced with the real ones in a semi-automated recount.

      We now have three things that cannot be tested with any paper ballot and one corrective action that cannot be achieved by paper ballot.

      If you want to show that it is easier to rig an electronic election, find a way you could rig the above system that would be easier than an election official substituting a real ballot box with a pre-stuffed one (something that actually happened in the 2000 election) or that would be easier than an election official "losing" thousands of votes behind office furnishings (something that actually happened in the 2004 election).

      The above system is not perfect, but show me that it isn't better. It may be that paper ballots are better, but that doesn't mean it is "obvious". Oh, and as for dodgy software (as happened with Diebold), let's say the election system used a CC EAL7 (Orange Book A1) rated platform, that the software AND submitted proof was open to independent scrutiny, that all networking was encrypted and run over a virtual circuit (so it can't be tampered with and can't be DDoSed) and that both NIST scrutiny and independent scrutiny had certified the systems as secure, politically agnostic, reliable, fault-tolerant and robust.

      Again, these are all criteria you can look for in an electronic system, but not a single one of them applies to a manual system. The current system is run by party stooges, for a start. That automatically creates means, motive and opportunity for electoral fraud. Independent international observers have tried to monitor US elections but were blocked from doing so, so independent scrutiny is impossible. Reliability is obviously false, given that electoral fraud has happened on a fairly substantial scale in the past (hence the interest by international observers).

      Now, if you meant "the proposed electronic system is open to fraud", then I'd agree with you. It's the generic that I'm not happy with, as it's possible to show that there's examples of superior electronic systems even if they're not ones that would likely be deployed in practice.

      • I agree with practically everything you're saying. I am an Officer of Election (poll worker) in Fairfax City, Virginia, and a software architect by trade. A well-designed, well-executed PKI-based voting system running on hardened systems *would* be more reliable than what we have. In fact, it would be overkill.

        People would be pleasantly surprised, I think, at how extensive our internal audit controls are. We monitor the count of voters using two separate systems. We call in the running totals every
        • by jd (1658)

          Apologies to those who are honest election officials - and hopefully that is the majority.

          Yes, the system I proposed would be overkill, but to some extent I intended it that way. Because there are doubts over the safety and reliability of an electronic voting system, I wanted to come up with an idea that would be sufficiently stronger than the existing system that it would be hard for anyone to succumb to the very natural and normal fear of things that are very different. You absolutely know that every time

        • by mrosgood (105043)

          A software architect would know about Ken Thompson's "Reflections on Trusting Trust" paper.

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            Oh, they'll assert that even computers can't fake signing.

            When, of course, they could indeed trivially sign a vote different than the one you actually tried to cast, and yet present you the other one.

            Of course, all this is made pointless by the fact that anyone with access to the computers in the voter registration office could just add a bunch of voters, and thus get a bunch of valid votes in advance. The poster mentioned 'election officials being supplied with hashes of votes as they're cast', which was

            • by jd (1658)

              You've made claims but not offered any reason for them.

              How, precisely, do you propose to attack an IPSec connection to an A1-rated computer? (Remember, these things are mathematically demonstrably secure.)

              How, precisely, do you propose that anyone with access to the computer could add false votes to an A1-rated computer?

              There is no "signing" in the system in the way you seem to believe.

              Networking the computers is the ONLY way to ensure security, as it is the ONLY way to ensure that what is stored after the

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by DavidTC (10147)

                f it could, this would be known well in advance, since it's trivial to compare the proof with the code to see if they differ, and trivial to inspect a proof to see if the code could do that.

                Really? You can somehow walk up to a computer and know the code on it is the same code that other people inspected?

                That is...implausible to say the least.

                This is because, of course, security certifications don't protect against the people installing the software. At all. Not a single one of them is even slightly des

        • by atamido (1020905)

          You guys have it quite a bit more together than the folks at the elections I've seen. We have a big enough problem just trying to keep them from changing our information displays to whatever TV shows are on. I suspect that doing something dirty in the election other places may be significantly easier than where you are.

      • by mrosgood (105043)

        Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.

        Yea? How's a court of law sit with you? The election results in New Mexico 2004 were fraudulent. Here's the link to Voter Action's lawsuit [voteraction.org].

        Were the machines actually hacked, as in malicious intent? Well, that's the rub, isn't it? Kind of hard to prove when there's no physical evidence. Either way, wrong is wrong. Whether be default or by design. Kerry still got more votes than Bush in New Mexico. Yet Bush was awarded the electoral votes.

        it's possible to show that there's examples of superior electronic systems

        Both incorrect and impossible. As this comment upstream [slashdot.org] notes:

        Electronic voting still can't solve a simple thing: To make each vote proven unique and untrackable at the same time.

        It's rea

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        the voter's registration card has a public encryption key...yada yada

        ...and their swiss-cheese-security PC has a specially released vote changing virus on it.

        Oh, dear. All your maths and cryptographic theory was just defeated by a $5 wrench [xkcd.com].

      • by Mathinker (909784) *

        > private key is in a central computer, with no record linking it to the public key (thus preserving anonymity).

        Interesting. How is the encrypted ballot going to get to the correct person, then? I think you meant to say that the public key isn't linked to the identity of the person to whom it was issued.

        BTW, one presumes that these keys will be reused, since otherwise there is no extra convenience to the voter. And if the keys are reused, it is possible that a previous voting pattern could be correlated

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        We now have three things that cannot be tested with any paper ballot and one corrective action that cannot be achieved by paper ballot.

        Uh, no.

        The problem here is that if election officials are corrupt, they're corrupt. Changing to a new system that stops specific behavior is just idiotic.

        In this example, you've traded off having to physical secure election sites with having to physical secure and electronically voter registration offices and having to electronically secure election sites.

        Please note b

  • Color Me Paranoid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cylix (55374) * on Saturday October 09, 2010 @02:54PM (#33846712) Homepage Journal

    It seems like the entire ordeal was designed to fail.

    These were all fairly common attack vectors and not nearly as lavish as the PS3 stack smash. (Seriously, who thinks of that attack vector). Even basic precautions and awareness of current threat models would have enabled them to harden their system from these things. To add insult to injury the left over data on the host and default passwords to expose it.

    I wholly agree that internet voting is fucking scary, but it seems like this test setup was created just to make the idea shine.

    • by iris-n (1276146)

      Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

      Sadly, I think that this is the case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

        And really, why does it matter which one it was? In either case these people shouldn't be in the positions they are.

    • the PS3 stack smash. (Seriously, who thinks of that attack vector)

      Stack smashes are easy. The PS3 exploit is a complex interaction with multiple noncompliant USB devices and is still not fully understood. All we know is a pointer to a function pointer gets overwritten with attacker-controlled data (the end of a USB descriptor) and the rest is history, but the circumstances leading to that overwrite are much more complicated than your average exploit. And none of it has anything to do with the stack (as far

  • You can vote as many times as you want by texting a number, but each time costs you $1.99! Then you could have "fair" elections, AND raise much needed revenue for the Government!
    • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @03:13PM (#33846800) Journal

      In the long run, the number of votes cast would tend to be based on prevailing interest rates. If the winner's salary + bribes is $1 million, and the prevailing rate of interest is 2%, then spending $50 million would only get you prevailing interest. You should spend less, because there are risks to being an office holder, and you might also lose.

      Ultimately, an options market should be built around the candidates, and we should dispense with voting and simply sell shares in each candidate. Insted of pork, they could just pay dividends.

      Of course, on the way to this perfection there might be some problems with candidate derivatives being sold over the counter, and banks over-leveraging on a particular candidate that nobody thought would lose or get sick and die.

      Nevertheless, we should proceed. I'll get in touch with the Grand Negis shortly...

    • by Lanteran (1883836)
      that just made me loose a little bit more faith in humanity. Thanks.
  • When a DC official asked why internet voting could not be made secure when top government secrets were secure on the internet, Halderman responded that a big part of keeping government secrets secret was not allowing them to be stored on internet-connected computers. When a DC official asked the panel whether public key infrastructure couldn't allow secure internet voting, a panel member pointed out that the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, was a signatory to the letter that had been sent to DC, urging officials there not to proceed with internet voting.

    Don't worry; they still won't get it.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @03:27PM (#33846846)

    ... I don't understand why people are so up and up about the voting system given that

    1) The vast majority of the public is too stupid to make any kind of sound decision about many issues
    2) Most candidates can only get anywhere by money
    3) You can never get rid of or mitigate the influence of money on politics since corporations are what makes the world go round.
    4) Until their is something of a mass movement/revolt so that the power of corporations are reigned in, voting is irrelevant.

    • by copponex (13876) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @04:22PM (#33847206) Homepage

      Yeah. Fuck democracy. It's not like keeping the voting system accessible by the public has any meaning. What's the difference between North Korea and America? Why, just a little cuisine and weather, right?

      1) The vast majority of the public is too stupid to make any kind of sound decision about many issues

      Go fuck yourself. Seriously.

      2) Most candidates can only get anywhere by money

      Martin Luther King? Desmond Tutu? Ghandi? There have been many political leaders, who didn't necessarily enter politics, who were able to force the state to change because the truth was no longer concealable. You cannot govern a population that does not want to be governed by you. Their desire to hold on to their positions of power is both a blessing and a curse. Even in communist China popular will has given way to reforms because the ruling party didn't want to be overthrown. There are some examples of states supported by outside powers, or in power because that state is under threat from other states, but especially in the developed Western world, the citizens of a nation determine their destiny.

      3) You can never get rid of or mitigate the influence of money on politics since corporations are what makes the world go round.

      Bullshit. People are what make the world go around. Do you really think life would stop tomorrow of AT&T and Exxon didn't exist? Civilization existed for thousands of years before the corporation. They are a human invention, not some magical organization that's any better or worse than any other hierarchy. But keep swallowing that line like an obedient intellectual prostitute.

      4) Until their is something of a mass movement/revolt so that the power of corporations are reigned in, voting is irrelevant.

      Bullshit. Countries around the world have voted to kick corporations out. Unfortunately, when they do, the United States often assassinates their leader or overthrows their democratic government through coups or terror campaigns. If you are an American citizen, you are one of the most powerful people on earth, because you have a vote that can change the way the world operates. But you've accepted the reality they sold to you, not out of struggle or just giving up because you don't have the strength to continue fighting, but because accepting that belief enables you to act immorally and pretend that it doesn't matter. You're nothing more than a sell out.

      Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. -George Bernard Shaw

      • by wesgray (1827286)
        I wish that I could have said it myself ! Thanks copponex for a truly "insightful" comment.
    • by Mikkeles (698461) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @04:34PM (#33847266)

      'I don't understand why people are so up and up about the voting system...'

      Because letting a bad system become worse is not a good way to improve it.

    • 1) The vast majority of the public is too stupid to make any kind of sound decision about many issues

      the people do not deserve to be told they are stupid. according to who? according to someone who is angry that the "smartest" agenda is not being implemented? on what basis is your agenda better and smarter? in china, they think as you do: the average man is too dumb to determine his own destiny. in other words, your thinking is the essence of anti-democratic fascism: "the common man can not think for himself, i must think for him". this is how every despot, dictator, and authoritarian system thinks: like you

      2) Most candidates can only get anywhere by money

      yes, and this is why we need to improve democracy, not make it even more flawed with internet voting

      3) You can never get rid of or mitigate the influence of money on politics since corporations are what makes the world go round.

      money is an influence. its not ALL the influence. unless you are a hopelessly negative cynic. in which case, butt out: us who are trying to make a positive difference don't need to be told our fight for what is good is hopeless. we know it isn't hopeless, and we also know you believe that out of a personality defect you have, rather than any better knowledge of reality. what you have is called "learned helplessness". it is a psychological flaw that defines a downward trajectory to YOUR life, not my life, and not our reality

      4) Until their is something of a mass movement/revolt so that the power of corporations are reigned in, voting is irrelevant.

      so you want a bloody revolution. after which, who knows who will be in power (no one controls a revolution). it could (it will) be a lot worse than the system we have now

      how about we use the issue you and i care about: get money out of our government, to vote for **gasp** candidates who want money out of government? what an amazing fucking concept. as opposed to your mindless cynicism that believes in things WORSE than what we currently have

  • What stuns me is that they are basicly saying that nothing in internet is secure, and everything is hackable.

    One way digests, strong cryptography, public key cryptography(SSL) etc etc etc.

    Which would mean that US govt has, and these individuals know they have, means to hack any current cryptographic method available, and what is to be available within near term. Which sounds just pure bullshit.

    • No, that's not what they're saying. It's not about breaking RSA or whatever- strong cryptography is a requirement of, but not sufficient for, an unhackable voting system.

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      It's called trojans and to a seller extent fake websites (you seriously think most people check for ssl?). It doesn't matter what the encryption in the middle is if someone controls the end point you're using.

      The only secure approaches involve bypassing the whole internet part for authentication and verification. RSA tokens, one time password pads and so on only minimize the problem since a Trojan can still hijack your session. Pretty much need interactive tokens that generate verification hashes on a per t

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      You know all those machines which are affected by things called "botnets" you see in the news...?

      Basically there's millions and millions of people who aren't really in control of their home computers.

      Strength of cryptographic algorithms would be irrelevant if the balance of power was decided by people visiting a web page using those computers.

  • doesn't matter how voters vote anyways. no matter who you vote for it will be the same idiots that are crashing are economy. oboma did some good things but also a ton of bad. and its not the system i lost faith in its people to dammed stupid to see how to really fix are issues and get these retards out of power.
  • Whenever these kinds of stories on the flaws in e-voting come up, most people inevitably advocating going to paper and that there is no advantage to e-voting. Bullshit!

    It has been done sloppily as hell so far, but the technology we have allows for much greater convenience and accuracy than is posisble with paper. If we implement a system we trust, which is possible, then all those manhours wasted counting and recounting can be used on something useful, and there are many advantages, not least that it may en

  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @05:18PM (#33847514) Homepage Journal

    In Annie Hall, Woody Allen is stuck in line behind an obnoxious guy pontificating about the work of media critic and scholar Marshall McLuhan

    MAN: Now, Marshall McLuhan--

    WOODY ALLEN: You don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work--

    MAN: Really? Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity.

    WOODY ALLEN: Oh, do you?

    MAN: Yeah.

    WOODY ALLEN: Oh, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. Come over here for a second?

    [Allen pulls McCluhan out from behind a group of bystanders]

    MAN: Oh--

    WOODY ALLEN: Tell him.

    MARSHALL McLUHAN: -- I heard, I heard what you were saying. You, you know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.

    WOODY ALLEN: Boy, if life were only like this.

    Evidently, sometimes it is.

  • Pull the other one. And look up Clifford Cocks.
  • We just had an election here, and I can't help but think that if people would have been able to vote online, turn out would be much much greater.

    Yes there are security issues. But these can be overcome. If I can bank and file my taxes online, I should be able to vote online. Yes, I know there are issues surrounding anonymity of votes - but I have confidence these can be overcome.

    I do not think people in the industry should be needlessly attacking internet voting - someday sooner or later IT WILL HAPPEN. We

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