Premiere/Diebold: You're Doing It Wrong

from the a-little-Friday-humor dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about Ohio’s lawsuit against Premiere Elections Systems — better known by its previous name, Diebold — where we noted Premiere’s claim that the problems were the fault of antivirus software. That didn’t make much sense, as we noted, but Randall Munroe has explained just how ridiculous this is (in a way that only he can) with his latest xkcd comic:

Voting Machines

Filed Under: ,
Companies: diebold, premiere voting

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Comments on “Premiere/Diebold: You're Doing It Wrong”

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Anonymouse of Course says:

Be Very Afraid

Seeing that a voting machine serves a highly
specific purpose, wouldn’t it make sense
to harden the system to the point that an
anti-virus program is more of a liability
than any protection it would provide?

I mean it’s not like the user is going to be
calling technical support because the latest
video game won’t run. I can’t fathom why
they’d use McAfee.

If there was any doubt that Diebold, I mean
Premiere, has little concern for accuracy
and security compared to cost and development
time it should be dispelled by now.

some old guy says:

Re: Be Very Afraid

wouldn’t it make sense
to harden the system to the point that an
anti-virus program is more of a liability
than any protection it would provide?

This is already the case for 95% of computers already. But so we can all say “we’re doing something!“, we install a security nightmare on our computers.

Microsoft almost did something smart with vista. They tried to make it so secure that a/v wouldn’t work. “Nooo!” cried the masses. They wanted to be able to FULLY compromise their systems with some pathetic excuse for a protective measure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Be Very Afraid

Funnily enough, I’ve yet to hear of a case where on Vista with IE7 protected mode someone got a virus. They always seem to have turned off IE7 protected mode or used FireFox instead when they get a virus.

I use both FF and IE. If i don’t know the site, its going up in IE first. Only Vista issue I’ve had is due to faulty sound card drivers, and that is ASUS’ fault since those issues are happening on XP for others as well.

Vince says:

American voting system

I hope we all know that these machines and their flaws exist solely (and have been designed this way) specifically to manipulate votes to install a president of private choosing. democracy is a made-up word; it has no meaning nor would it exist if it did, especailly not in america where the law is in corporate hands.

mightymaz says:

AV isn't security

I’m surprised that you all seem to accept that a/v is some kind of security technology when it plainly isn’t.

Genuine security would be a sincere attempt to stop all virus infections, conventional a/v can’t do that and doesn’t pretend to, the best commitment I’ve seen for an a/v vendor responding to a new threat is to have a new signature out within 3 hours of getting the data on the virus, but then of course you still need to distribute the new signature to all the vulnerable computers, so these computers need to be updated very regularly.

With most popular a/v systems you don’t get to authenticate the server you download the signatures from, and there is no recognized standard for what constitutes an a/v signature : the signature files could literally contain executable code if the a/v vendor (or some interfering malicious party) wanted it that way.

Then you have all the potential problems with false positives and negatives…. a/v presents more security problems than it solves.

I think we must conclude that a/v is not a security technology in the proper sense and should not be deployed on a sensitive system such as a voting machine (any voting machines whose “security” is enhanced by a/v is clearly not fit for purpose.

Nick says:

Seems to me....

that voting machines are too general use. If I understand correctly, they are just commodity PC’s running windows (or linux?)!

If they’re going to go electronic they should be using a custom ROM / ASIC based system. Preferably not x86 (security through obscurity…), and certainly with absolutely NO input/output facilities except whatever (proprietary) port the result information is downloaded off of.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Seems to me....

Exactly so! But it’s a different skill set
than lashing up what amounts to the guts from
a beige box with some hid and a in a stylish
enclosure. Development cost and/or time to
market would escalate remarkably.

If the specification doesn’t demand it (either
explicitly or by performance requirements)
they’re not likely to take that route.

Nate says:

RE: Anonymous Coward @17:

If you’re being sincere, hopefully this helps clear up the issue a bit: in the same way your kid’s teacher wearing a condom in class would be unsettling (and indicative of him doing something he shouldn’t be in class), an antivirus program running on your voting machine is indicative of it doing something it shouldn’t, either — encountering viruses.

In the proper functioning of your ballot machine, it shouldn’t even be accessible from outside its secure, closed network (if it even is networked).

Diebold, now Premiere, have, for as far as I’ve equated their name with voting machines, been almost completely transparent in their hubris toward the American electorate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Watch that video Hackign Democracy linked above. The stupid things are windows 98/2k boxes and all election results are stored in a seemingly unsecured SQL database. The guy can run a quick sql query and change the outcome of the election. Crazy shit.

And to why this matters, any system which requries anti-virus software is, by its very nature, insecure. These thigns should be on a close/controlled network with no access to the outside world. Additionally, they should run BSD or Linux since security is such a significant issue.

P. Orin Zack (profile) says:

Re: It's not SQL

Would that they did use an SQL database. Unfortunately, it’s Microsoft Access, which is a toy, as far as real databases go. Still, a voting machine has no business being on a network, and therefore there is absolutely no reason to have an AV program running on it. Of course, if you take what they are doing as for a reason, I would have to conclude that they know full well that the idiots who will be sneaking in to mess with the election results are sloppy enough that they could be introducing a virus when they load those illegal updates in the dead of night.

I write pointed political and business short stories at

Josh says:


While its certainly possible that an antivirus program could cause something like this, does anyone else really think this is actually likely? Did this happen as Diebold/Premiere claims, or is it just yet one more lie from a corrupt company?

If I was Mcafee and was getting blamed for this, I would want exact details of what happened. This will hurt Mcafee’s reputation and if its a load of BS from Diebold, there’s a libel issue here.

Yer doin' it weird! says:

Security through anachronisms

You want security & a fancy computerbox counting votes? Use a VAX 11/780. Give voters only a dumb vt100 terminal, with NO WAY to break out of the voting software. That pretty much kills any hope of the machine getting a virus, especially one designed to compromise M$ based systems. To make it more cryptic, use DECNET to network anything that needs outside communications.

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