How Can You Test An E-Voting Machine For Malfunctions If You Don't Get To Test The Machine?

from the just-wondering dept

Now that Florida's governor has admitted that e-voting machines without a paper trail are not such a good idea (though, the optical scan machines he wants to replace them with have their own problems), you would think that Florida would be all for a thorough investigation into the problems of the old machines. Perhaps not. Remember Sarasota, where a bunch of votes appear to have gone missing? In the lawsuit over this, the judge denied the request to see the e-voting software source code, saying there needed to be more evidence that the machines malfunctioned first. At the same time, however, the Department of State in Florida has been trying to commission an "independent" study of the e-voting software, and even spoke to Ed Felten about joining the team. He's listed as one of the investigators, though he actually declined to take part. Why? Well, it turns out that they want the investigation to take place without actually letting the experts view the working software or the e-voting machines. Instead, it only wants to give them the source code and let them comb through the source code alone to try to figure out where the malfunction could have occurred. It's great that at least some experts are finally getting a chance to look at the source code, but it makes you wonder why all of these e-voting security tests always have strict limitations on them. If they really wanted to know what the security vulnerabilities are, shouldn't they make the test much more complete?
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 7 Feb 2007 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Re:

    Jo,

    I'm sorry, but you're not being convincing here. When you have no argument you fall back on insults. "Conspiracy blogs." Yet, you're talking about the work of some very widely respected computer science professors. How are they conspiracy blogs?

    The answer is that they're not.

    On the point about complications, again, you fall back on insults, rather than explanations. I understand pretty thoroughly all of the complicating factors you list out, and I still don't see how that's particularly complex. People (many people right here) code much more complicated systems all the time -- and aren't so worried about letting it be tested.

    The point people often miss, which is left off of the conspiracy blogs, is that all of these 'hacking' attempts that are requested are made to do so in some sort of vacuum.

    Again, you fail to state why that's a problem. If the hacking can only take place in a vaccuum, that's made clear as well. The problem is that many of the hacks explained also show that they are completely possible in real world environments. Isn't that a problem?


    Show me one case where an actual, real-life, electronic election was proven to be hacked. You can't, because it hasn't happened.

    Well, that's just the problem. Because no one's able to check these things and there's no clear audit trail, no one knows whether that's true or not. I could just ask you to give me actual real-life proof that a machine HAS NOT been hacked. Each question is equally useless. Neither has any bearing on whether or not security researchers should be allowed to examine the machines.

    with all of the security and audit features outside of the system itself, it is next to impossible

    Right, that's why Avi Rubin pointed out that the people at the polling place where he was an election judge ignored the security tape being removed. Yeah, next to impossible.

    The other thing all of you forget is that the companies that make these machines are companies, not charities.

    And the thing that YOU forget is that this is a national, democratic election. This isn't for the sake of helping these companies make a profit, it's for the sake of making sure the election is fair and honest.

    The election companies don't have some hidden agenda, they want the same thing the American people want, a trusted system; that way people would buy more of them, it's business, and many people like those on this post just don't get it.

    I'm sure they do what a fair and honest election. I believe that. What I don't understand is why they won't let the machines be tested by the researchers -- because that would help them prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the machines really are secure.

    Elections throughout this country, and the systems they are conducted on, are extremely scrutinized and very reliable.

    Yes, and how do you explain the various problems that have cropped up in live elections over the years?

    I know my little opinion won't change your minds and ease all of your dark fears, but maybe it will make you think twice when you read your next 'conspiracy' blog....

    It's not "dark fears" and it's not "conspiracy" thinking. We're just wondering what's wrong with letting some well known, well respected top computer security researchers test the machines?

    You haven't answered that question. You've just tried to insult everyone's intelligence by saying "we just don't understand." There are a lot of very smart people here. Try to explain it to us, and we'll understand.

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