[E-voting] BlackBoxVoting Finds Voting Scan Machines Hackable
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
"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
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,"
"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."
"There is a team that does fieldwork that is doing a documentary,"
"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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