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Estonia Urged To Drop Internet Voting Over Security Fears 116

wiredmikey (1824622) writes "A team of global IT experts have urged Estonia to drop electronic voting from this month's European elections, saying they had identified major security risks. They also said the system's operational security is lax, transparency measures are insufficient. and the software design is vulnerable to cyber attacks. 'Estonia's Internet voting system blindly trusts the election servers and the voters' computers,' said U.S. computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, a co-author of the report released Tuesday. 'Either of these would be an attractive target for state-level attackers, such as Russia.'" The source for the voting system is available for anyone to inspect. The Estonian National Electoral Committee released a statement dismissing the researchers claims: "At this point, we can give only preliminary answers to allegations published in the Guardian, as the researchers have not shared the full results of their work with us. The researchers met with officials from the electoral committee in October 2013, and could have contacted us at any point in the last 6 months to share the initial findings of their research. ... The researchers have not discovered any new attack vectors that had not already been accounted for in the design of our system as a whole. ... It is not feasible to effectively conduct the described attacks to alter the results of the voting. ... The electoral committee has numerous safeguards and failsafe mechanisms to detect attacks against the elections or manipulated results."
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Estonia Urged To Drop Internet Voting Over Security Fears

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  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:05AM (#46999233) Homepage
    E-Voting per se is wrong. There is only one method to make sure that every vote counts, and that is public counting of the vote. Every tabulation of votes in a machine makes a public counting impossible.
  • Re:bollocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:05AM (#46999247) Homepage Journal


    but for voting of the parliamentary DO NOT FUCKING USE INTERNET VOTING.

    why? technical cheating? actually no. that's just one worry. even if it worked 100% secure the main problem of *being able to sell your vote* remains. that also means your spouse can intimidate you into voting who he/she wants. your employer can intimidate you to vote who they want you to vote for. the local mafia can pay a visit and demand you vote for their candidate.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:12AM (#46999299)
    Quite simply it comes down to independent auditing. With my bank account, my email or even my Facebook; I can tell if I have been hacked or if these companies are playing fast and loose. I will look at my bank account and bloop I am $30,000 short. Where did it go? I will then begin an investigation and bring my previous bank statements as backup if needed. Worst case scenario the bank won't cooperate and I will take it to the courts where again my evidence will be brought to bare. Lastly I can switch banks. Quite simply it is because I have feedback as to what is happening.

    The same with facebook. If suddenly my posts are all encouraging people to help out a Nigerian prince then I've been hacked. I will then be able to take some action.

    The reason I mention the above technologies is that I think that we can all assume that our banks, facebook, and our email companies all are very good and work very hard at avoiding being hacked; yet they have all been hacked. Look at Target, they (to use the correct term) were PWNED.

    But when I vote online it is fire and forget. I don't know what happened to my vote. There is no physical record for me to point to. I can't check up on my vote after the fact. At least with a paper ballot system I take my physical ballot and I give it to some vaguely trustworthy government person who is closely watched by as many representatives of the various parties as there are parties. Each watching with the interests of their official in mind. So if they see something they don't like then they can call police/election officials/newspapers etc. I like this system. It is not impossible to thwart but close enough.

    In my city, Halifax, they added online to the municipal elections and I am truly scared. This should be illegal in 20 different ways. They justify it saying that it cuts costs and increases participation. Basically it didn't cut costs as they had to screw with the system so much, send out so many instructions, and answer so many questions. Plus in the end it basically didn't increase participation. I carefully looked at the votes and luckily none of the online voting was significant enough to have altered an outcome.

    But let's say that someone had screwed with the results (as a programmer you can't tell me that it isn't going to be that hard) the only people who are going to cheat are going to be bad people. People who, once they are in, will ensure that only they can continue to cheat. So to me every online voting system is basically waiting for the first set of evil and smart people to come along. That is it. But once it happens, by the altered rules of the voting system, how do I fight the vote? How can it be contested? How can there be a recount?

    Now I understand that some voting systems are complicated with many propositions, levels of government, etc being voted on in a single booth. So I have a very simple solution. You press your buttons which then produces a ballot on the screen, you then look at the ballot on the screen and see if you like it. Then you press print. It then produces a ballot that matches the one on the screen and you can compare. Then you say OK and then bring your ballot to the ballot box per normal. Then the computer tallies up the votes and announces a tentative winner. Then the humans can count the votes to see if the computer agrees with the paper ballots. But the key is that the paper ballots have the final say. The computer is only there to help. Then if there is a wild difference between the paper and the computer more interesting auditing mechanisms can come into play.

    As a computer programmer I am 100% certain that any online election can easily be rigged. But I am by far not alone. 100% of the time that independent security researchers have gotten their hands on electronic voting systems they have hacked them and usually with ease. So the solution is that these companies don't allow independent auditors but ones of their own choosing and ones that they pay well.

    This is a serious problem. Basically online voting is pretty much demanding that some evil person runs our government.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:13AM (#46999303) Homepage

    Using computers to register, count, transfer, and archive vote tallies is impossible to do without an almost certain effort to alter the vote totals by parties interior to the project (people creating and maintaining the systems and the show runners) and outside the project ("hackers"). Of the two, the insiders are far more likely.

    This is not a failure of tech or of implementation. This is a human thing: those disposed to alter election tallies have infinite motivation to find a way to do it. They can either slip in during the coding phase or the implementation phase, or even during the elections. Like rats, they will find a way.

    The difference between paper and electronic is basic: paper leaves a physical trail. E-voting can be rigged to leave NO trace. IS rigged to leave no trace. No audit is possible: all audits are predicated that the datasets and code are correct to begin with. If someone slips in backdoors, they can alter vote totals in real time and therefore all recounts will be "accurate". Paper receipts are useless, because what is printed is not necessarily what actually happened. Paper printouts that are reviewed by the voter on site for accuracy and then stored in boxes by the voting agents *can* be a valuable check, for the paper should match the e-count. But why then the extra step of the computer? Just use paper to begin with. Canada does it (I hope still does) and they count elections by hand in three hours, no matter what the size, local or national, because human counting easily scales.

    Source code is worthless as a trace. One never knows what the machine is actually doing from microsecond to microsecond; the code executed need not match what you see on the source. This makes coders heads explode, but it is true. The machine can be programmed to lie. I know this, because I have done it, on orders from my bosses, in the past, to make a bit more money for my company. Cheating is easy and it is undetectable if you are even marginally clever about it. The count can also be altered far from the source tabulating machine and local system, at other levels. Such malignancy will not be accounted for by the counting company; their rep is on the line, they don't believe it is possible and further they don't want to know.

    Use e-voting and you will see the powerful grab control, one way or another. Use paper.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.