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E-Voting Firm VoteHere Discloses October Break-In 172

Posted by timothy
from the what-are-the-28%-thinking-exactly dept.
linuxwrangler writes "In the ongoing saga of electronic voting 'security,' eVoting company VoteHere is the latest to reveal that they were the victim of a computer break-in. According to VoteHere founder, Jim Adler, the concern isn't about their source code which they plan to reveal 'eventually,' anyway, but is about the possible release of salary and other HR data. Astoundingly, the 'hot poll' associated with this story has (as this is being posted) 28% of respondents saying they would trust their vote on the internet and 41% saying 'not now, but maybe soon.' Feel free to cast your vote." Reader nSignIfikaNt points to the Assocated Press' article as carried by CNN.
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E-Voting Firm VoteHere Discloses October Break-In

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  • by Sikmaz (686372) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:19PM (#7832549)
    Why should we trust their voting systems without auditing?
  • umm...ok (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savatte (111615) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:20PM (#7832554) Homepage Journal
    can you really trust voting results/percentages of an e-voting firm that was hacked?
  • by the man with the pla (710711) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:21PM (#7832562)
    I'm not trying to troll here...but hear me out: People simply don't trust electronic voting...as a geek this makes me very sad, because voting is something that could and should be more automated.

    Now, ask yourself, why is it that people don't trust comptuers?

    Answer: Microsoft's abhorent trackrecord with regard to security has an awful lot to do with it. It's not the only factor, but it is *huge*.

    All these windows bugs do effect us linux geeks: The perception of computers in general has suffered greatly.

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  • by shanen (462549) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:30PM (#7832610) Homepage Journal
    The poll has apparently been closed already. Not sure what to make of that, but perhaps yet another political slant. At least CNN isn't as imbalanced as Faux News.

    Anyway, on the substantive issue of reliable voting, computer security is NOT a done deal. This networking stuff is great in many ways, but there's a big problem when everything is connected together. You hack into one part of the system, and you've exposed various other parts to attack. The old idea was to make a secure perimeter with firewalls and DMZs and so forth, and you could keep something safe inside, but that's called the "eggshell model" now--turns out to be relatively easy to breech and you still need strong security for EVERY machine with ANY sensitive information on it. Someone in the office took his notebook computer home for the weekend, and you can never tell what Trojan backdoor is inside your network now.

    Of course, the BIG threat here is abuse of power. No one needs to be protected from weakness, but powerful people often want MORE. Not an independent event--that greed is usually part of how they got there in the first place. Consider the recent example of Arnold in California and the selection in Florida in 2000...

    If our votes are to have ANY meaning, they must be protected, and it is very clear that some people will play ANY game that will win more power. Voting machines as secret slot machines? Would you trust Las Vegas THAT much?

    Simple. Print the ballots. Let the voters LOOK at what the ballot says, and save it. It's convenient that the machine can also report the results quickly--but NOT convenient that any computer can be hacked.

  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:31PM (#7832615) Homepage
    That may be why the uninformed are affraid (can you blame them?), but that's no reason to not trust e-voting.

    E-voting is a reason not to trust e-voting. Slashdot just has story after story of how these big "trust us, our stuff is fair" e-voting companies have problem after problem after problem. Things are bad now, but imagine the kind of stuff that might come up if it was legislated that the 2004 Presidential Election had to be done on these systems. What happened in Florida (which was largly the fault of people who were too desperate to not loose to care about anything else, since the recounts and recounts didn't change anything) would look like a cakewalk compared to finding people who got to vote in 12 districts, those who's votes were counted 10,002 times, and the fact that anyone with a "A" or an "E" in their last name (BUT NOT BOTH) could only vote during odd numbered minutes of even numbered hours in districts that are prime numbers or some other rediculous things that at this rate seems it could easily turn up.

    I'm all for MS bashing when they deserve it, and they may be the number one reason people don't trust e-voting (allbeit indirectly); but there are REAL reasons why people shouldn't trust it, and if it were to get reported more, then people still wouldn't trust the things, it would just be for the "right" reason.

  • by sllim (95682) <achance&earthlink,net> on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:48PM (#7832694)
    Securing HR data and salaries is basic, basic stuff. I would have some sympathy if Joe Schmoes Pizza barn had there salary and HR data compromised, after all they make pizzas, IT is way down the line for these people.

    But lets face it, if you want to manufacture eVoting technology then securing the network is a crucuial part of that technology.

    If THEY can't secure there own HR and payroll data then how am I supposed to trust them to handle evoting competently?

  • by nlinecomputers (602059) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:52PM (#7832707)
    I'm not trying to troll here...but hear me out: People simply don't trust electronic voting...as a geek this makes me very sad, because voting is something that could and should be more automated.


    Why should voting be more automated? The only reason ballot counters are used is to rig the election. Several contries around the world conduct elections with hand marked and hand counted ballots and do just fine. Automation just makes it that much easier to rig the vote. Voting SHOULD be difficult, hard to quickly count, and should envolve lots of people in the process. When one person or a small group gets to count the ballot or gets to build an automatic system to count the ballots it is far easier to bribe or threaten that small group and rig the election. Any kind of automatic system should be questioned, be it scantron systems, pull lever voting machines, or computers. It is all designed to hide the vote from the public NOT make voting safer. I don't trust computers not because I am ignorant of what they can do because I know exactly what they are able to do and how easy it would be to rig an election.

    If it is not a paper ballot and the ballot isn't counted at the polling place in public view then you shouldn't trust that vote. Most places in the USA the ballots are not counted at the poll. They are hauled away to the court house and counted out of public view. No way to be certain that the ballot box is the same one that left the polling place and no way to have the public watch the counting. This is by design to aid in vote fraud. We haven't had a free election in most places in the country in years.
  • Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anti-NAT (709310) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:02PM (#7832750) Homepage

    The only valid reason I've heard of for e-voting is to purely speed up the counting of the votes, so that the result of the election can be known much quicker than via hand counting.

    Commonly people seem to assume that this means replacing paper votes, or rather, more specifically, replacing an auditable paper trail.

    So we have a additional-efficiency model verses a replacement model.

    For some reason, the model that has been adopted (and maybe encouraged by the "US" governement aka GWB) by these E-voting companies is the replacement one. Who knows why, although the conspiracy theorists would suggest Florida 200(? - I'm Australian, don't know exactly when the last US election was).

    Of course, as all slashdotters know, under the replacement, electronic only model, security and accountability are a lot harder to do. All these e-voting security stories, such as this one, are evidence of that.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:24PM (#7832824) Homepage Journal
    You can't trust anything important without auditing. You can't even trust paper without the opportunity to do independent recounts.

    There was something encouraging in the article, evidence that the company understands the concept of detection and response:

    "It's true that systems would always be compromised," he said. "The point is, you want to know about it. ... If you can detect when those things happen, that's what's vitally important. Any ballots that get compromised will get detected, and that's what's crucial."

    Not so good is that the article says their systems will allow voters to check their ballots after leaving the polling place. I hope the reporter misunderstood. Chaum's paper explains how you could verify that your vote got counted, was valid, and was what you expected -- but you don't want to be able to see what candidate the vote was for. That way lies intimidation and verifiable vote-buying.

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:42PM (#7832893) Homepage
    I think what he was saying is that it's the *implementations* that are faulty, not the concept.

    Perhaps the current incarnations are faulty because they involve insecure proprietary software made by inept, politically-motivated companies; but that doesn't mean that e-voting is inherently impossible to do correctly.

    There's a real feeling among "regular people" that computers aren't to be trusted. It will only hurt OSS and proponents of universal computing when Microsoft capitalizes on this mistrust (that they helped create) by introducing "Trustworthy" computers that only run Windows.

    The technologically informed must make it clear that the problems with e-voting (and secure computing in general) are not technical ones and will not be solved by blindly trusting faceless corporations or closed-source government voting booths.
  • by Dark Bard (627623) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:26AM (#7833038)
    Where the internet would be useful is in making registration and obtaining absentee ballets easier. I work a lot of hours, as do most of us, and find registration a pain. It's rediculous to have to register months before an election. I was buried in work and found out late at night it was the last day to register for the last Presidential election. If we could register on-line and obtain ballets it would definately make things more accessable. Verifying identification is an issue but most aren't checked for ID as it is and none of those are verified. As far as electronic voting, I'm against National ID cards but most of us have drivers licenses with magnetic strips. An ATM system that uses those as verification could improve security. The system would only use the drivers license to access an electronic form. It would record that the individual voted but not which form was used. Any system can be hacked. The only way to largely avoid that is to network the voting machines at each location by firewire. An electronic count could be sent but would have to be verified by a verbal number given over the phone by some one at the polling location. A print out of totals could act as a third verification. It doesn't prevent tampering before the fact though. One possible way to avoid pretampering would be to have name order assigned on the day with more than one person required as in nuclear sites. Any pretampering would not know which name was being represented by any given code number. No system is foolproof but there is a fair amount of tampering already. Can you say Florida?
  • by Loki_1929 (550940) * on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:40AM (#7833088) Journal
    Seriously, folks; trusting an internet vote to determine new leaders for the world's most powerful nation?

    27% Yes

    40% Not now, but maybe soon

    Fucking idiots. That's about all I can really say in response to this. I'm just too disgusted for words.

  • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @12:42AM (#7833104) Homepage Journal

    The technologically informed must make it clear that the problems with e-voting (and secure computing in general) are not technical ones

    Aren't they? Depends on your definitions, I suppose, but I would say the main problem *is* a technical one, and that it's intractable. The problem is that technology is inherently opaque, unless you have a great deal of specialized training, and even then you can never really be sure unless you're allowed to disassemble the device.

    Sure, there are ways you can build systems that can be verified, and processes to verify them, but the costs are huge (I design and build secure systems for a living) and you'll *never* convince people as thoroughly as you will if you simply print a paper ballot that they can read and drop in a locked metal box.

  • by fname (199759) on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @01:07AM (#7833246) Journal
    Boy, these guys have a lot of nerve. The guy at VoteHere claims that the break in might be politically motivated. ("We feel that it may have been politically motivated,"Adler said.) But when asked to elaborate, he defers and says he doesn't want to politicize the situation. ( "I don't want to necessarily politicize this," he said. "This is just a crime.")

    Waaa??

    So he impugns activists pointing out flaws in his system, then claims to be taking the moral high ground. And the cowardly reporters don't even question him about this blatant double-talk. Shame on VoteHere. Shame on MSNBC. Shame all around. When people lie, they need to be called to the mat for it.
  • by natrius (642724) <niran&niran,org> on Tuesday December 30, 2003 @05:18AM (#7833803) Homepage
    So shouldn't we try to fix the system we have in place already? The biggest problem with electronic voting is that if you can alter one vote, you can alter lots of votes. When it's done by hand this isn't the case. Having competent poll workers and changing the system to one in which the ballots would be counted in public instead of carted off to a courthouse would result in a much more secure system.

    I'm not trying to say e-voting shouldn't be done at all, but if there is no paper trail, then the potential for mass voter fraud still exists. A previous post suggested a system in which an electronic input system would print out a marked ballot for you, which you could then verify before submitting it. This would increase the ease of voting while still maintaining, if not increasing security.

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