Report: Electronic Voting Extremely Insecure

Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law set up a task force comprised of “internationally renowned government, academic, and private-sector scientists, voting machine experts and security professionals” to give a thorough once- (or twice-) over to electronic voting machines so much of the country is adopting, to see if they’re vulnerable to attack or manipulation. The report is in (PDF file – right-click and “Save As…”) and the answer is, of course they can be broken into and manipulated.

The Brennan Center delivered a press release yesterday, along with an Executive Summary (also a PDF file) on the group’s findings. There’s also a PDF available that shows who took part in the study.

The group concluded that “all three of the nation’s most commonly purchased electronic voting systems are vulnerable to software attacks that could threaten the integrity of a state or national election.” Not surprising, since the CEO of one of those companies virtually guaranteed that he would deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to George W. Bush. Guess he’d be in a position to know how to do that, eh?

Here’s a section of the press release:

The Task Force surveyed hundreds of election officials around the country; categorized over 120 security threats; and evaluated countermeasures for repelling attacks. The study examined each of the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems: electronic machines (“DREs”) with — and without — a voter verified paper trail, and precinct-counted optical scan systems (“PCOS”). The report, The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World, is the first-ever systematic analysis of security vulnerabilities in each of these systems. The report’s findings include:

  • All of the most commonly purchased electronic voting systems have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities. All three systems are equally vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software or other software attack programs designed to take over a voting machine.
  • Automatic audits, done randomly and transparently, are necessary if paper records are to enhance security. The report called into question basic assumptions of many election officials by finding that the systems in 14 states using voter-verified paper records but doing so without requiring automatic audits are of “questionable security value.”
  • Wireless components on voting machines are particularly vulnerable to attack. The report finds that machines with wireless components could be attacked by “virtually any member of the public with some knowledge of software and a simple device with wireless capabilities, such as a PDA.”
  • The vast majority of states have not implemented election procedures or countermeasures to detect a software attack even though the most troubling vulnerabilities of each system can be substantially remedied.

It’s high time we all — Democrats and Republicans alike — demand of our elected officials that steps be taken to secure these machines and provide a paper trail. There’s no reason that a company like Diebold, whose ATMs can process millions of transactions every day with to-the-penny accuracy (and provide a transaction slip afterward), should be allowed to deliver voting machines that are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation to precincts all over the US. No reason at all. There is also no reason why any fair-minded Democrat or Republican would be opposed to implementing the suggestions given by the task force. It’s time we really know who we, as a society, are electing to represent us, free of even the hint of voting irregularities or corruption.

Of course, the Republicans have no motivation for putting any of these issues to the House floor, since they’re so busy discussing more important issues like flag burning, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, voting themselves pay raises while killing iwhat would’ve been the first increase in the minimum wage in almost ten years, and getting rid of the Paris Hilton tax which would affect less than one third of one percent of US familes (actually, .27%) and cost the US Treasury roughly one trillion dollars over the first ten years of the repeal.

Nice to know the Republicans have their priorities.

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