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Video Prof. J. Alex Halderman Tells Us Why Internet-Based Voting Is a Bad Idea (Video) 264

On March 2, 2012, Timothy wrote about University of Michigan Professor J. Alex Halderman and his contention that there is no way to have secure voting over the Internet using current technology. In this video, Alex explains what he meant and tells us about an experiment (that some might call a prank) he and his students did back in 2010, when they (legally) hacked a Washington D.C. online voting pilot project. This is, of course, a "professional driver on closed course; do not attempt" kind of thing. If you mess with voting software without permission, you might suddenly find the FBI coming through your door at 4 a.m., so please don't do it.
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Prof. J. Alex Halderman Tells Us Why Internet-Based Voting Is a Bad Idea (Video)

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  • Not a "bad idea" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:58AM (#39325103) Homepage

    No, it's a good idea with bad implementations, and little chance of those implementations improving. Using it for an actual election of consequence at this point would be bad. Let's not assume that everything that doesn't work in the foreseeable future is inherently bad, okay?

  • by Theophany ( 2519296 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:03AM (#39325123)
    Why is Internet-based voting required anyway? Surely this is a great idea to get those basement dwellers out of the house at least once every four years. There are already systems in place to allow those confined to their homes due to medical circumstances to participate in their democracy. Whether it's done tomorrow or in 30 years time, people will still find ways to break the system. Net result? A colossal waste of money over something that is already in place and works as well as can be expected.
  • Yes, a bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:10AM (#39325191) Homepage

    I'd argue that it's a fundamentally bad idea, for reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with technology.

    It's very simple: If you go to a polling place, you are in a situation where you can be observed by poll workers, who will notice things like somebody standing over your shoulder with either a gun or $10 to get you to vote the way that somebody wants you to. Whereas if you can vote anywhere, it's quite possible for an organization to do those sorts of things.

    The same arguments also apply to voting by mail, or over the phone, or absentee ballots. For instance, it was not uncommon for political parties to stop by my grandmother's nursing home to help the residents vote, helpfully filling it out for the voter (including checking the boxes for their preferred candidates).

  • Re:Way too early (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:10AM (#39325193)

    While I'm on this subject, who came up with the idea of sending 25 armed agents and a small tank to get some geek out of their basement? []

    Heck, for some of these guys you could just write a note, 'report to jail tomorrow and drop your computer off on the way there' and they would do it.

    Paramilitary police is not about arresting people, it is about keeping the population terrified of the government. The point is to show people that the government can send a tactical team into any home at any time, so that people will be afraid to take a stand against the government.

  • by ArcSecond ( 534786 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:13AM (#39325219)

    I like them. I trust them. They are their own record. And, if you like, you can spoil them.

    In Canada, we have our ballots counted within hours of the polls closing. And you can go back and re-count them if necessary.

    Keep it simple!

  • by lfourrier ( 209630 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:14AM (#39325231)
    It's a BAD IDEA!

    Every vote that doesn't occur in a supervised place can be sold, extorted, etc... That include correspondance voting, of course, but usually for small numbers unlikely to change the result.
    The fact that the transmission is not reliable is nothing compared to the whole mess of distance voting.
  • Re:Yes, a bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdrianKemp ( 1988748 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:19AM (#39325261)

    I was going to suggest the less sinister issue with it, although along the same vein.

    If all you have to do is log in and vote from your computer, a small "incentive" could seriously increase the voter turn out. Of course I'm referring to the incentive being provided by a company/party.

    Right now, laziness is keeping the vast majority of uninformed dolts away from the ballot boxes. Utter hatred is keeping some informed ones home too but that's a different issue.

  • by errandum ( 2014454 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:30AM (#39325345)

    The big problem, unlike the story suggests, it's not security. It is the fact that you cannot guarantee that the vote is coming from whoever is registered. Anyone with a login and password can usurp your vote, so you'll never have a doubt free election ever again.

    On the other hand, I do believe that you can design a secure system for voting, as long as you can guarantee that the machines were not tampered with.

  • by Sqreater ( 895148 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:32AM (#39325347)

    The assumption is always that paper ballot voting is secure. Electronic fraud is somehow more important than paper ballot fraud. President Kennedy wasn't even a legitimate President according to some due to paper ballot fraud and they have a good case. See the "Controversies" section of the Wikipedia article on the 1960 election:,_1960 []. No, the whole controversy over the safety of voting is just a reason not to do what is required by a belief in Democracy and what is absolutely necessary in a period of time which illustrates the obsolescence of the old system. The Macroparasites have taken control of our system of government and true electronic democracy is the only way we will get power back into our hands. As for the safety of electronic voting, let me say this: It is safe to do internet banking; it is safe to transfer trillions of dollars of assets around the world daily; but it is somehow not safe to cast a single vote electronically . I don't believe that is the truth. And those who argue against electronic Democracy are merely the familiars of the Macroparasites.

  • by errandum ( 2014454 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:36AM (#39325381)

    On the other hand it seems to be unable to weed out the highly motivated idiots. There are a whole lot of very brilliant people that I actually know that don't vote, simply because their vote does not matter. The blind idiots will outnumber you and decide the course of every single election.

    If you stopped to think about it, you'd see it's true. It's the big flaw of the democratic system.

  • Re:Way too early (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:45AM (#39325451)

    Don't forget profit and courtroom drama.

    Profit is obvious. Courtroom drama is the perp must be guilty because the cops felt like sending 25 cops in riot gear and smashed all the house windows... If the cops just called his lawyer and asked him to talk, he must not be an absolutely guilty supercriminal.

    Had a SWAT callout 5 houses to the west of mine some months ago... parole violator got drunk (thats a no no for a multi-time DUI guy) went to friends house, passed out alcohol intoxication. Friend owns a deer hunting rifle and was dumb enough to tell the cops looking for the drunk about it, so we get full swat team callout, smash all the windows and stick cameras in, including one of those tossed ball camera things. Streets blocked off, TV news told BS story about man barricaded in house with gun so we've got newsies crawiling everywhere. The cops got to do the judge jury executioner thing by tasing an semi-conscious drunk guy. This is all OK because "we're tough on crime in this rich suburban city". Lots of people made a lot of money, and the parole violator is back in a for profit prison again, the families (especially children like mine) were terrified, so its all good all around. Seriously SWAT doesn't mean anything anymore.

  • Re:Yes, a bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:45AM (#39325457)

    That already applies to postal voting, and so as a replacement for postal voting isn't an issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:48AM (#39325479)

    I said the effort in voting is in educating yourself on issues, forming your own opinions on those issues, examining the candidates opinions of those issues, and then communicating with those candidates both by voting for your preferences and by maintaining a dialog with those actually elected to office.

    I did not say that people do this, or in fact, put any effort into voting. I believe most people put no effort into voting.

    I also believe that Internet voting will help nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:05AM (#39325615)

    We should enact Compulsory voting [] like many other countries have. Show up or face a fine, and repeated offenses without a good excuse equate to jail time.

    Before someone brings up the whole "freedom" thing, keep in mind that a lot of states (if not the entire country) have a lot of other compulsory things that are viewed as unsavory by some people, such as Selective Service, paying into Social Security, and mandatory car insurance. (I'm not saying that's a justification, but it sort of kills the whole "against freedom" argument IMO.)

    I live in a country with compulsory voting & being an anarchist I never vote; however I agree with the parent: compulsory voting gives meaning to not voting. It makes clear that voting is giving away your personal descision power to somebody who openly craves for power.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:20AM (#39325757)

    Another bad idea: video as a SlashDot post. Seriously - we're too busy to watch this. Get it down to a paragraph we can scan while we're waiting for something to connect, something to compile or a minion to find an answer for us and maybe.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:04AM (#39326179) Journal

    I suppose you don't remember why poll tests were a bad idea. Why should the vote of a wealthy land owner count more than that of a newly enfranchised former slave?

  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:25AM (#39326401)
    I think more importantly, while things could have gone wrong, the difficulties in the lunar landers were not *malicious* in nature. It's easy to make a system 'probably' safe in an environment of random threats, but in an environment that is actually actively hostile, that unlikely event of failure would rapidly become a certainty.

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