Security Concerns

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-01-02 Print this article Print

Colorado is the latest state to pull the plug on electronic voting machines due to accuracy and security concerns. Who's next?

This week's news from Denver capped a particularly tough month for the major electronic voting vendors, who saw similar decertifications in California, Ohio and Florida, according to the report. As they did in Colorado, researchers in Ohio found that many of the popular electronic voting systems could be corrupted with magnets or manipulated with PDAs.

That's precisely the kind of attack security expert Bruce Schneier predicted last year in a report for a voting system security task force at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law titled "The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World." Schneier wrote that such wireless exploits that could easily take advantage of vulnerabilities in system software or hardware.

"For this type of attack, a Trojan horse would not have to be inserted in advance of Election Day," Schneier wrote. "Instead, an attacker aware of a vulnerability in the voting system's software or firmware could simply show up at the polling station and beam her Trojan horse into the machine using a wireless-enabled personal digital assistant."

Testers in California and Florida, meanwhile, were reportedly able to cripple their systems and change vote tallies using a variety of cracker methods.

The troubles are making election officials in New York look downright prescient. Despite a federal judge's threats of jail time for election officials, the Empire State remains the last paper-ballot-bound holdout against the Help America Vote initiative.

"Every system that is out there, one state or another has found that they are no good," John Gideon of the advocacy group Voters Unite told the AP. "Everybody is starting to look at this now and starting to realize that there is something wrong."

And it's not just the machines that are giving American voters headaches. According to a new survey by USA Today, thousands of eligible voters will likely be turned away from the polls this year as a result of because of flawed database technology, which was also implemented as part of the Help America Vote Act.

In Florida alone, Gannet News Service found some 14,000 people knocked from the voter rolls because their personal information didn't match Social Security, motor vehicle, or other databases. Colorado meanwhile purged 20 percent of its voters from electoral rolls between 2004 and 2006.

Page 2: Balancing 'Prevention vs. Detection'


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