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. identicon
    Joe T, 6 Feb 2007 @ 6:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Don't talk about something you don't u

    Since my products undergo Federal certification too (although they are encryption products, not voting machines), I think I can speak to the fact that not all federal certification is what it's cracked up to be. I'd be interested to know what, precisely, is tested on these machines. The individual military branches do penetration testing on our equipment following a standard test plan that isn't always appropriate for what our product exactly does, but that's all that is required. I'm not saying that my product (or yours, for that matter) is insecure, just that you can't hang your hat on Federal certification as a standard-bearer for security.

    In the information security world, as in the cryptography world, if you aren't willing to let any qualified party test your system for vulnerabilities, than you are presumed to have something to hide. As an example, RSA's RC4 encryption algorithm was not made available for public and cryptanalytic scrutiny - RSA would not permit it. After it's patent expired and people got a look at it, it was found to have all manner of weaknesses.

    When the integrity of the electoral process is at issue, nothing short of full scrutiny and disclosure can ever be acceptable. Security by obscurity, it is said, is no security at all.

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