Thursday, September 14, 2006

How To Steal An Election With Diebold Machine in One Minute

At the Center for Information Technology (see website for full study), Princeton's computer scientists demonstrate how an election can be stolen and not be detected.
This project was created by Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten, who write: "Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines."

Even more frightening, you only have to access one machine. A computer virus can be implanted in only one machine and spread undetected.

Do we want to trust our elections to machines that can be hacked without a trace in less than one minute? (less)

CNN's report:

Toward the end of CNN's video:
MILES O'BRIEN: This is from Dave Byrd, President of Diebold Election systems (reading a letter): "Normal security procedures were ignored in your study. Numbered security tape 18 enclosure screws and numbered security tags were destroyed or missing so that the researchers could get inside this unit." In other words, if it's got a seal on it, and all those screws that you've got to get at, of course you just said picking the lock would be the way to do it. Nevertheless, are you ignoring some key facts about the security in all this?

EDWARD FELTON: Not at all. We issued a lengthy and detailed technical report that talks about these issues. It's not that difficult to loosen eighteen philips' screws to get access to the machine.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, but you'd be kind of suspicious if you were there...u
u machine beforehand, at any time, for 3 or 4 minutes, you could loosen the ld , one minute if you could pick the lock.

At Elections' and Voting Registrars' Offices nationwide, temporary employees (paid and volunteer) are hired specially for elections. Municipal governments do not have money in their budgets to keep all of the employees that are necessary to run elections permanently on their staffs. There's not much of a screening process, if any, for those who apply for this excruciatingly boring job. I know this to be true because I've been there and done it.

The people who work in municipal government, for the most part, are ordinary people who aren't politically partisan and don't necessarily suspect anybody else around them of partisanship or skullduggery. It takes special people to do, what is for the most part, mind-numbingly repetitive paper-sorting eight hours a day, five days a week. I say this with great appreciation and affection for those who work to make our government function. Most just barely graduated from high school and have no work experience or skills. They are underpaid, for a job with no upward mobility (they could be getting paid more for doing the same tasks in the private sector, as entry level file clerks at State Farm or Blue Shield) and are told frequently by grateful bosses what "good and patriotic citizens" they are for their sacrifice, by not choosing to work for more compensation in the private sector. Even then, the turnover rate for municipal jobs with no upward-mobility/promotion-track is great. It's the reason for good benefits' packages (medical, pension, etc.) in civil service jobs.

Temporary workers aren't the only strangers mulling around Elections'-Registrars' Offices (and polling preceincts) during election periods, either. Candidates' staffs, campaigns' workers, political party workers, reporters, or those pretending to be with any of these groups, are in and out of these offices so frequently that by the day of the election they are camping out. Confusion as to "Who was that in the absentee ballot stacks?" and "I thought you knew" is SOP.

Someone over at Raw Story reports:
I just got off the phone with the Riverside County, CA Registrar's Office (800-773-8683). They confirmed that they are using the touch screen machines in the upcoming November elections...and yes, the poll workers get to take the machines home the night before..can you believe it? They firmly believe that since there apparently are "seals" (paper none-the-less), that the machines are therefore TAMPER PROOF. They are delusional.

One reason for poll workers taking the machines home with them the night before the election is that they might live far from the Elections'/Registrar's Office (perhaps living closer to the polling preceincts that they are to set up the following day). This cuts down on travel/set-up time and unforeseen delays due to traffic, etc. It also means that voting machines are loaded into vehicles the previous day and are parked unattended overnight on either private property (the workers' home garages) or on public streets outside of the workers' homes. Practices like this are based in denial that there are people highly motivated to steal elections. Rules and regulations in government bureaucracies usually come about `after the fact', after somebody has tampered with voting machinery instead of `before', because (in my experience) it's an effort. It requires thinking through, and "it's always been done this way, so why bother when it's never been a problem before?" How would we know if it's never been done before if we're not monitoring? Even when we do monitor, it's hard to tell:

Princeton's videotape showing how it's done:

In 2004 (as was the case in 2000), exiting polling indicated that Kerry-Edwards won, while virtually all of the anomalies in the electronic voting machine totals were in favor of Bush-Cheney. Can anybody doubt that voters' choices were also changed on the rest of the ballot, giving Bush-Cheney a Republican-controlled Congress?

When exiting polling gave the news services results that didn't match the official vote counts in 2000 (a first in the history of exit polling), the news services stopped exit polling. Without alternative checks and measures (like paper receipts), there is no way to determine the legitimacy of U.S. elections.

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