Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

I am not kidding.

As if we weren't already suspicious of our electoral process (Rolling Stone article on the probably-bogus Ohio 2004 election), and of the electronic voting-machine company fox guarding the henhouse (Diebold then-chairman/CEO Walden O'Dell promised in 2003 that he was committed "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President"), now we find out that given one minute's access to a Diebold AccuVote TS machine, a prepared criminal can not only subvert its vote totals undetectably, but install a virus so that the normal software-update cycle can propagate the malware to other machines.

This is not fantasy, or some theoretical proof of vulnerability as we're used to seeing from cryptographers. A team from Princeton wrote the hack, demonstrated its effectiveness and invisibility, and created a video to tell you about it. It's not technical, or rather they explain the tech in terms that anyone sufficiently sentient to vote should readily appreciate.

See http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ for the whole scoop, including the technical papers. Then demand that your local and state elections officials refuse this idiocy. The tension between accuracy and convenience -- largely driven by media outlets who demand instant results, and thus ultimately by you and me -- is admirably detailed here in security expert Bruce Schneier's article. While other systems, even my favorite (optically-scanned paper ballots) have their vulnerabilities, handing our electoral process over to software with no hard audit trail is just madness.

If Republicans win, I am sad. I'd like the outcome to be different. But that's democracy for you.

However, if anyone, anyone at all, subverts the electoral process so that U.S. citizens know that it's rigged, we are heading for a dictatorship, widespread violence, or both. It has happened in too many other places for us to assume that we're immune.


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