[E-voting] BlackBoxVoting Finds Voting Scan Machines Hackable

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Mon Jun 6 17:32:04 IST 2005


*BlackBoxVoting Finds Voting Scan Machines Hackable
* By: Matthew Cardinale
Published: Jun 4, 2005 at 08:35

Two new and startling discoveries announced by Bev Harris and 
BlackBoxVoting.org indicate that Diebold Optical Scan Machines are 
vulnerable to, and designed for, hacking that would modify the results 
of an election.

Whereas Touch Screen voting machines have received the most attention, 
she asserts, Optical Scanning Machines pose as much cause for concern 
based on recent findings.

In an interview for the progressive news community, Bev Harris, 53, 
explains in detail the recent developments.

Harris asserts that her technical experts found, in research conducted 
publicly on Leon County, Florida, elections machines, that both the 
individual machines [which produce the poll tapes] as well as the 
Central Tabulator were hackable.

"This is really the most important thing," Harris said. "Yes we can hack 
the poll tapes [and the Central Tabulator]. But what we've learned is 
there is a 'built-in' [on the individual machines] that provides the 
mechanism to hack any election on the poll tapes in the Diebold Optical 
Scan System."

"It is something that should be looked at in a Congressional 
Investigation," Harris said.

"It's probably not an accident," Harris said, "because you can look back 
through the source code to see that [Diebold] went through some 
programming contortions to keep this thing there. It had to have been 
expensive for them, frankly."
"When we saw the way they designed it [the 'built-in']," Harris 
explained, "Harri [Hursti, computer expert] said 'We have the Holy 
Grail.' The Elections people are very concerned," Harris said.

Hursti is said to have confirmed that the built-in hacking program 
'lived' in the memory card of the "ballot box" on individual election 
machines, according to Harris. "What this means is that the program 
operates on the votes. You can change what's on there; it's just a 
disk," Harris said.

"So when the Optical Scan Machine asks it to count the votes, instead of 
using its own program to count the vote, it asks the ballot box how it 
should count, and that is what's so bizarre," Harris explained.

Ion Sancho, the Leon County Supervisor of Elections, reportedly allowed 
Harris and her experts to conduct a number of testing and auditing 
operations on their Diebold Scanning Equipment in recent months.

"Mr. Sancho is famous for his integrity and openness," Harris said. "We 
wanted to get a county with an Optical Scan System so we could prove 
once and for all if they're vulnerable."

A series of demonstrations were held on February 14, May 02, and May 26, 
2005, in Leon County Elections Offices, she said.

With U.S. Representatives Corinne Brown (D-FL) and Cynthia McKinney 
(D-GA) on hand, Dr. Herbert Thompson, a Professor of Computer Science, 
took less than five minutes to "hack" a Central Tabulator in the second 
public audit on May 02, 2005, Harris asserts.

"[Election officials] loaded up an actual election. Elections are saved 
as a file. And [Dr. Thompson] went in and had his way with it," Harris said.

"The second time they'd put in additional security measures, unbeknownst 
to us, and he got in even faster," Harris said. "And [U.S. Rep.] Corrine 
Brown said, can you make it so it changes, say one in every 5 votes? And 
[Dr. Thompson] was like, no problem! And she said, it IS a problem!"

It was after discovering problems with the Central Tabulator, that the 
BlackBoxVoting Team turned their attentions to the individual scanning 
machines.

Calls to the offices of Rep. McKinney and Rep. Brown were not 
immediately returned Friday afternoon.

The canvassing procedure with optical scan machines has three elements, 
Harris explains. First, there are the Scantron-like ballots which are 
locked in a box. Second, there are the polling tapes, or receipts, that 
come out of each voting machine, which give results for each machine. 
And third, there is the Central Tabulator, or one machine that polls all 
results and prints.

"And they check the [latter] two and call it good," Harris said.

"Now how hard is it to make false results by 'taking out' the two so 
that they'd match? If you can manipulate the poll tape and the central 
tabulation system, that will be all she wrote for most elections," 
Harris said.

"My question was, can you [hack the machines] in a way that wouldn't be 
detected. And the answer we found is yes, absolutely."

"We proved it by going down there," she said. On May 26, 2005, "We made 
bogus memory cards. We put them on the machines. And the cards told the 
voting machines how to come out. It proved the memory card was 
controlling the machine and not the other way around," Harris said.

"We used real election results from Leon County. We simply re-wrote the 
program on the card, and we manipulated the recording of the voting. It 
would flip em, it would do different things, and the results came out 
wrong," she said.

"Everybody is like, oh, paper ballots, we can check them if we need to, 
but that's not a true statement. That's the big distraction." Harris 
cites a number of cases where recounts of the actual ballots were not 
allowed by state officials.

"I've been interested a long time in Diebold Optical Scanning Systems. 
Because a lot of times you go where the silence is, the thing that 
everybody isn't talking about. There was an orchestrated rush towards 
Anti-Touch-Screen, but what's going on with optical scans, which have 
been in use for a decade?"

"There have been changes in the law, erosions state after state, that 
it's becoming difficult to check paper ballots against the optical scan 
total," Harris said.

Diebold's computer program is written in ABO basic, a new language 
written by Diebold. "They made up their own computer language!" Harris 
said. "Which is a flat-out violation of all FEC standards. It's 
completely against federal law not to use standard language."

What's more, Harris said, "These machines have been tested and certified 
at least a decade, each time a new version comes out. What is their 
excuse for passing this? There's no way they could've missed it, and 
there's no way they could say it's legal."

*What Next?*

"There is a team that does fieldwork that is doing a documentary," 
Harris said.

"They got footage of when we found poll tapes in a downtown elections 
office garbage," she said, referring to a somewhat unrelated public 
records request incident last fall. "There were actually two times when 
we found poll tapes in a garbage, and we got the other one [at a 
warehouse] on tape ourselves," she clarified.

The documentary (see www.votergate.tv <http://www.votergate.tv/>) is 
being edited in England by Russell Michael and Robert Parillo Cohen, 
Harris said. "They've [covered] tremendous stuff that's been happening 
all over, including some elections in California."

"It's the use of machines in the counting process I object to. What is 
needed is hand counting," she said.

"We've moved to a very important point," Harris said. "We need to now 
get the complete set of memory cards used in 2004 and have them looked 
at by the right experts. We need cooperative counties with some 
anomalies and Diebold scanners. Someone needs to examine those memory 
cards to see if they were misused in 2004," she said.

"I'd like to see cards from King County, Washington; Volusia County and 
Duval Counties, Florida; Du Page County, Illinois; and San Joaquin 
County, California. They're required to keep them for 22 months."

Black Box Voting is said to be creating a technical report for release 
in mid to late June.

Black Box Voting is still pursuing litigation with Riverside County, 
California, and King County, Washington, Harris said. Harris recently 
won $70,000 from Diebold-related litigation in California and also won a 
recent case in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Public records from requests made after the November 2004 election are 
planned to be made available on Blackboxvoting.org in coming weeks.

"We'll also be announcing a Diebold related action next week that should 
spread through the internet like wildfire," she said.

*Matthew Cardinale is a graduate student, advocate, and freelance writer 
at UC Irvine. He may be reached at mcardina at uci.edu.*

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