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Diebold Chases Links To Leaked Memos 595

bllfrnch writes "Mary Hodder, over at The Berkeley School of Journalism's bIPlog, reports that electronic voting bigwig Diebold has begun sending cease-and-desist letters to universities whose students are linking to hijacked internal company memos that elucidate the company's level of respect for citizens' right to vote. Particularly shocking is the line: "If voting could really change things, it would be illegal.""
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Diebold Chases Links To Leaked Memos

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  • Shocking? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bunhed ( 208100 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @07:53AM (#7336519)
    Particularly shocking is the line: "If voting could really change things, it would be illegal.""

    only because it's true

  • Re:Stupid Quote (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Troed ( 102527 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:03AM (#7336550) Homepage Journal
    Saddam Hussein was standing up against the evil imperialist infodels that he was blaming for all of Iraq's problems.

    Some would say he wasn't that wrong on that either. Have you personally talked to people from Iraq? I have - and Iraq was a very nice little country back in the 70s. The problems began in the (US backed) war against Iran, and when Saddam later invaded Kuwait (after getting an OK from the US) everything went downhill due to the (US led) bombing back to the stone age.

    This latest war, for absolutely no reason, was the final straw. Today's Iraq is a lot different from what it once was - and the US is somehow involved in everything that has happened ...
  • by Debian Troll's Best ( 678194 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:05AM (#7336553) Journal
    I've done a fair bit of contact work for a large Federal Government departments, and one issue which was recurrently faced was that of how to distribute important documents across the whole organization, without the loss of a document server or two bringing down the whole thing. The situation with the leaked Diebold memo reminds me of this situation. And here's how my team and I solved it in our contract work: apt-get.

    Yes, the power of apt-get could be used to form a type of ad-hoc distributed network for the distribution of the Diebold memo, without fear of a single server being shutdown making the document disappear. What we did for the Fed was to create a set of apt.sources files which contained the addresses of a bunch of mirror servers which contained the documents of interest. When a user needed to find a document, they would simply issue an apt-get instyall Document command at their workstation, and apt-get would do the rest.

    It gets better. When a new revision of the document was released, it was a simple task for the user to perform an apt-get upgrade Document, and the latest version was dragged across from what ever server happened to be available from their apt.sources file. We even spent a couple of weeks hacking dselect to launch OpenOffice when necessary to create a kind of crude distributed document management system. The users loved it! It's the UNIX way!

    But anyway, back to the problem at hand. What is needed are a bunch of Debian servers to host the offending Diebold memo which has been leaked, and for people to start adding these to their apt.sources files. That way, Diebold won't be able to shut down any servers, and if they leak new information, it can easily be upgraded with apt-get upgrade Diebold! apt-get just continues to amaze me.

    apt-get free speech!!!

  • by yo303 ( 558777 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:08AM (#7336562)
    Associated Press is finally picking up the story (see here) []
    Diebold Inc. sent "cease and desist" letters after the documents and internal e-mails, allegedly stolen by a hacker, were distributed on the Internet. Recipients of the letters included computer programmers, students at colleges including Swarthmore and at least one Internet provider.

    Heh... and several million /. readers...


  • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:12AM (#7336579)
    I'm sure Diebold is fighting this.

    This is House Resolution 2239 which requires a paper trail and bans the use of non-open software.
    Here's a story about it: link []

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:22AM (#7336610) Homepage Journal
    Any volunteers for a high-profile arrest?

    BTW, Newsweek carried a piece by Steven Levy about Diebold this week.
  • Gore (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Davak ( 526912 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:29AM (#7336642) Homepage
    "I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb"." [source: /msg00068.html ]

    I am not pro-Gore or anti-Gore or Republician or Democrat. But the quote cracks me up...

    No matter if he won or lost, quotes like this now make me understand why he at least wanted a recount.

  • by tehanu ( 682528 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:33AM (#7336654)
    There is a lot of talk about Diebold - but what about the people who bought the machines off them? They were all I believe state governments and agencies. I'd say that they have been guilty of gross negligence in the buying process. And even now when the truth is coming out they are still not even holding an inquiry or even publicly demanding answers from Diebold. Surely there must be some laws that can be used to hold the state agencies responsible. I wonder if they could end up being sued by a losing candidate if he could prove that their negligence led to him losing? Generally I'm against law-suits but sometimes its the only thing that get institutions or companies to sit up and take notice.
  • Mod parent up. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:21AM (#7336821)
    If Diebold is claiming copyright infringement, they are admitting that the memos are real!

    I heard a story once about WWII. --It went like this; when the German death camps were discovered by the Allied forces, one high ranking General, rounded up as many people in his command as possible and marched them through the scene, telling them, "Look at this and do not forget it. People are going to try to deny that this has happened."

    You watch. Two years from now, when all the links and documents have been rounded up, there will be people swearing up and down that this Diebold thing is just another loony conspiracy. Just wait. The PR spin will put a rationalized face on it and raise lots of reasonable doubt, etc.

    Newsflash: Conspiracies bloody well exist. Those who swear they do not are chumps who think that watching television documentary 'science' shows makes them smart. And amazingly, many of them can also tell you who Joseph Goebbels was as well! (Cuz they learned about it from a television documentary.)


  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:28AM (#7336856) Homepage
    "Dear James Bruce,

    I will promptly remove this document as soon as you send me an official statement stating it is Diebold copyrighted material"
  • by TPFH ( 92944 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:34AM (#7336889) Homepage Journal
    This Modern World comic for 10.28.03

    How do you like my Halloween Costume? []
  • Re:Stupid Quote (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doctor7 ( 669966 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:49AM (#7336963)
    Saddam could have just not invaded Kuwait and the nation never would have been bombed

    What, and just let the Kuwaitis go on stealing his country's only major resource? And after being told that the West would consider the invasion justified and would not retaliate?

  • by dotslash ( 12419 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:53AM (#7336987) Homepage

    I am a constituent in your district. I am writing to thank you for supporting HR 2339 and to tell you how important this issue is to me. When I saw you had co-sponsored the bill, I was very pleased. I recently moved to this area, and previously had the pleasure of Rep. Nadler of NY as my representative. Your voting record indicates that you are representing us very well.

    HR2239 is very important to me for two reasons:

    As a citizen, I was ashamed of Florida 2000 and found the whole mess reminiscent of a third world country. We are still paying the price of that election with GWB's policies. I fear that next time we won't even know we have had an election stolen.

    As a professional, I have been in the computer security business for over 12 years. I currently lead a global consulting practice specialising in computer security (we are based in NYC). I was very supportive of the analysis conducted by John Hopkins and I was glad to finally see someone discuss this serious issue. In my business I am responsible for securing some of the most sensitive systems such as banks, pharmaceutical R&D etc. I have a lot of experience both in securing and in "testing" systems. In our business we call this "ethical hacking" and we get paid to try to break into systems. I have seen how easy it is to subvert the security of many commercial systems. After reading the Johns Hopkins analysis of the Diebold system I was shocked at the level of risk these systems would introduce. I seriously believe that it is possible not only to compromise them, but to do so en-mass in a way that could subvert an entire presidential election. Even worse, I believe this can be done with subtlety so that it is undetected. This means our very system of democracy is at stake. In a way I wonder whether I should be surprised at the fact that republicans do not worry about this, or whether I should be concerned that they have reasons not to worry.

    Your actions in this matter are admirable and of great importance. You have my support.

  • Re:Stupid Quote (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:59AM (#7337023)
    Kuiwait was holding the gun to Sadaam's head. Kuiwait was pumping out Iraqu/Kuiwaiti shared oil at a pace much faster than OPEC had approved. They were essentially stealing Iraq's oil.
    Sadaam went to the US and informed them of their plans. The US stated that they would not get involved, that Sadaam was a buddy, and sorry for that whole Iran-Contra thing.

    The Republicons are a one-trick pony. Economy slows down, hey, let's start a war! Things go bad, let's build a 'Star Wars' program. It worked for Regan! More money to Lockheed-Martin! MOre money to Big oil. I'll give you guys a little hint. It worked for Regan because Lockheed-Martin was not at critical mass, as it is today. Regan fostered this company as it diversified from a weapons manufacturer, into a HR management firm that just happened to build weapons. Their purchases and expansion were subsidized by the government. Now when Bush 2 gets into office, the old Regan era advisors come out and say, "hey the economy is tanking. Let's start a war. Oh shit, that didn't work. Let's build a star wars program! That will work! It did before!"

    A Regan with Alsheimers Disease is better than any Bush without it.
  • by jmo_jon ( 253460 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#7337135) Journal
    you could always vote for somebody else. You don't have to vote republican or democrat. run for office yourself and make some changes.

    If you don't belive in marketing and backup by large companies that would be true. Do you have a clue how much money it's needed to run for president? How would average Joe with the solutions to all problems reach out to the millions of people needed to get him elected if he wasn't backed by a large company or a largy party? And when he got elected with the help of thoose, owning everything to them how could he be any better than what's running now?

    In the best of worlds your statement would be true but unfortunately are we living in a dump, with too many uneducated people to be able to have democracy.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:24AM (#7337176) Homepage Journal
    I've lived in several communities in the US and have been voting since 1979 and I've never even seen a voting machine. I've always voted on paper forms that were designed to be read by an optical scanner. Other people have never seen anything but punch ballots, or "voting machines" with pull levers that mark ballots for people.

    There is no country wide standard of how voting is conducted.

    People outside the US may not be aware of this, but local governments (cities, counties and states) are extremely important in our system. US states are pretty much exclusively in charge of setting standards on how voting is conducted. For example, while every state has secret ballots, this is only a widely accepted custom; well into the nineteenth century people voted in some places by testifying publicly at the local courthouse. States typically don't have very stringent standardization. Local municipalities or counties (depending on the part of the country) actually conduct the polling and have a great deal of leeway in how they do it.

    Combine this local autonomy with the typically frugal funding of municipal functions compared to what a European would expect, our entrepreurial spirit and our love of technological quick fixes, it's pretty much inevitable that there should be an array of half baked systems out there. The Diebold system in question is only the latest.

    I wonder whether this chaos has a kind of protective effect, at least on the national and statewide level. Think about this: barring a knife edge result like the last presidential election, the only way to rig a statewide or presidential election would require undermining a variety of systems in a variety of places, using a variety of methods. The chancs of avoiding detection decrease hyperbolically in the number of exploits attempted.

    The real danger with electronic voting is that in our post-Florida mania for a technical quick fix, a de facto electronic voting standard will emerge. This has happened in the past, for example in states adopting the secret ballot. However, electronic voting provides a single point of vulnerability, in which a rogue staffer with sufficient skills could conceivably change the composition of the US government. Americans tend to dismiss the possibility of voting manipulation by corporate interests as class warfare paranoia, but think of the opportunity this presents to certain foreign intelligence agencies.

    What we ought to do is something that has never been done in the US: set real standards for polling methods, especially (but not limited to) electronic ones. I think most people here understand what this should include: things like auditabiliy, indepedent security analysis as part of system acceptance, etc. These standards could be implemented by multiple vendors, and for security reasons we would probably want to have at least four or five major players, and set maximums for the percentage of an electorate in a state voting on a particular vendor's machines.
  • by tangaloor ( 36819 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:29AM (#7337203) Homepage
    Here in Canada it's paper and pencil, too.

    The interesting thing is that in our last federal election, they counted all the paper and pencil ballots the same night, and then recounted several jurisdictions that same night.

    I truly cannot figure out why the recount of a few jurisdictions in Florida required so much ridiculous work. A recount here, of paper ballots, can happen in a few hours. A recount in Florida takes weeks?! Either it was intentionally made impossible, or the system is just *#@!ed.
  • by Molecular Mechanic ( 677132 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:38AM (#7337316)

    All we need is for some U.S. congress member to get up and read the memos into the record. There is pretty much no legal way to stop them, and once it's in the record, they cannot be removed.

  • by Heisenbug ( 122836 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:58AM (#7337560)
    You know, as skanky as I find this little debacle, it's kind of refreshing to have a company claiming infringement who actually wants you to remove the infringing documents. They're asking you to remove it, and instead of demanding money, they're simply providing clear and simple directions to regain 'compliance' with their 'copyrights'. None of this, "certain of your documents contain offending text, and if you don't pay us lots of money we'll take you to court and tell you which ones."

    I guess I prefer an honest crook every time. I still hope these honest crooks get hammered, though.
  • by Lumin Inverse ( 471513 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:18AM (#7337772) Journal
    Hello, I'm the Boston University mirror.

    I expect that BU will receive a DMCA notice in the next day or two, and ask me to remove the memos. Although I would very much like to find this, I simply don't have the resources to get into a legal battle (and it's doubtful BU would stick its neck out for me).

    But that's not even necessary. If I could just find two people willing to put up mirrors once my mirror goes down (I've already found one), than their takedown notice will have the net effect of putting another copy of the memos online. This seems to be the best overall strategy for those who can't fight this legally.

    If a willing mirror could email me, and let me know what the url of your mirror is, I'd really appreciate it.

    chrisn1 [at] bu [dot] edu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:25AM (#7337862)
    they don't call it a two-party system for nothing, pal.

    a 3rd-party candidate getting elected would mean the government has been overthrown.
  • The obvious flaw: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <roystgnr&ticam,utexas,edu> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:48PM (#7338646) Homepage
    Each voter after voting would receive a confirmation receipt showing who he voted for (human readable)+ ser no + date etc + nonce + digitally signed (e.g. pgp), with a code for the voter to later verify online who he voted for (the voter not being easily identifiable by the code). ...

    Sure there are probably flaws with this.

    There's one flaw: if you let the voter take a human readable receipt out of the booth, it's no longer a secret ballot, and it becomes possible to bribe, blackmail, or simply pressure someone else into voting the way you want.

    If that was the price we had to pay for untamperable elections, I'd willingly pay it; but it's not. Plain old pen-and-paper voting is untamperable within a couple percentage points, which is good enough for me; I don't care too much if someone gets elected by 24% of the voting age public instead of the usual 25%.

    Even electronic voting can be made untamperable: now that their website's back up (if it goes down again, check Google's cache) I'd like to post Yet Another Plug for []'s white paper on verifiable voting receipts. Basically you give the voter a receipt which:
    • Lets them verify that their vote was recorded correctly inside the booth, but not outside.
    • Lets them verify that their (multiply encrypted) vote was included in the final tally, and lets that vote be published instantly so as to prevent any votes from being lost.
    • Lets them verify (given a trustworthy public random number generator) that the final tally was decrypted correctly.

    Then, as long as nobody is adding votes to the final tally (so yes, we still need honest poll workers to make sure that the number of people walking into booths is the number of votes reported by the computers), the election results will be instantly countable, completely verifiable, and perfectly accurate. The only drawback is that it would require lots of expensive custom printers.

    Granted, I don't expect to ever see this system in use; I suspect public-key encryption may be next to Condorcet voting on the list of "stuff too complicated to explain to the politicians"... but just reading about the possibilities puts all the "why is my broken smart card sending out negative numbers?" incompetence at Diebold in perspective.
  • Voting receipts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by no_choice ( 558243 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @02:08PM (#7339468)
    Some people seem to want voters to get a receipt showing who they voted for. This is a bad idea.

    A receipt of this sort would destroy the secrecy of the ballot. It would allow people with money to buy votes, and people with power to intimidate voters to vote the "right" way.

    For example, if there were voting receipts, your employer, the patriarch of your family, or local ward boss could ask to see your receipt... if you didn't vote for the "right" guy or refused to show your receipt, there could be negative consequences, especially for people without power.

    Even if asking for your receipt was illegal, people would still do it... or intimidate voters with the mere possibility that they might demand to see their receipt.

    I think that if the voting system is changed, it should certainly NOT include receipts, neither paper nor electronic.

    There should be strong audit trails, of course, but it should be impossible to determine who an individual voter voted for.

  • Re:excerpts (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mattblanchard ( 551123 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @04:44PM (#7341010)
    "Field people keep reporting memory card corruptions. McKinney continues to say "gather more information" with serial numbers etc. This has been going on for several years, and appears to be getting worse. "
    ref []

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears