Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Diebold Disks May Have Been For Testers 182

opencity writes "The Washington Post reports on the two Diebold source disks that were anonymously sent to a Maryland election official this past week. Further investigation has lead individuals involved to believe the disks came from a security check demanded by the Maryland legislature sometime in 2003." From the article: "Critics of electronic voting said the most recent incident in Maryland casts doubt on Lamone's claim that Maryland has the nation's most secure voting system. "There now may be numerous copies of the Diebold software floating around in unauthorized hands," said Linda Schade, co-founder of TrueVoteMD, which has pressed for a system that provides a verifiable paper record of each vote."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Diebold Disks May Have Been For Testers

Comments Filter:
  • First post1 (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:33PM (#16541620)
    How long until it's on BT?
  • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:38PM (#16541664)
    If the attackers can use the source code to attack the machines then the machines aren't secure and probably wouldn't withstand an attack from someone who had access to the machine even without source code.

    Having numerous copies floating around is a good thing if disclosure of security holes is encouraged, and the fact that Diabold are implying that the security of their systems rely on people not having access to the source code is a very bad thing.

    Lets look at things logically. The only people who would rig the election using those machines would have to have physical access to the machines, and if they did they wouldn't need the source code to highlight security holes. If the source code was released then the people who would be advantaged would be the people who would responsibly disclose security holes.
  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:40PM (#16541692) Journal
    If the software was well designed, this wouldn't matter at all. I mean it should be clean and simple, and secure. All incoming data should be validated, all data should be stored, and a mile wide system audit trail should be created at the same time. Then, spit out the paper version with a transaction # so you can run it right back against the system.

    Instead, I bet it's a pile of shit. Recycled code, buffer vulnerabilities, piles of ad hoc crap, with poor documentation.

    I hope someone does find a way to exploit the code. People need to wake the hell up.
  • Just joking. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thisfox ( 994296 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:41PM (#16541696)
    Face it, it would probably be a more secure voting system if they voted by email. They could even make it into a computer game to encourage more young people to vote!

    Although, if they did vote by email, imagine the junkmail vote....

    You gotta wonder about any politician that wants no paper trail of his own votes. Why is he not interested in having hardcopy proof that he really did win this or that election? (or she, or she, I hope to the gods that Americans aren't backward enough to have only male options in parliament).
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:41PM (#16541702) Homepage Journal
    Forgive if if I misunderstood, but shouldn't Linda Schade be happy that there's copies of the software available for public scrutiny instead of complaining about it? If she's really concerned with the security of electronic voting, surely she would be in favour of the software being verifiable?

    If I didn't misunderstand, someone in D.C. should give this lady a call and explain to her the pitfalls of "security through obscurity" and why openness is a Good Thing.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:44PM (#16541720) Homepage
    that the versions, that have been anonymously submitted, were from the last election. Could someone be trying to tell us something? Will a third party have the chance to examine the contents?
  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:48PM (#16541756) Journal
    Diebold whines about how the source code to their voting software is secret and copyrighted and blah blah... but you know what? Accurate democratic elections easily outweigh the need of any company providing voting software to keep their software secret. The government ought to be hiring a software company on contract to provide the service of writing voting software, not buying a product from them.

    This is assuming, of course, that there's any overall benefit to digital voting in the first place, which there really isn't. Digital elections are a terrible idea -- stick with paper. Oh no! We'll have to wait a few more hours to have complete results! Big fucking deal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:59PM (#16541818)
    Just before the 2002 election, a secret "patch" was distributed by order of the president of Diebold without the knowledge of election officials, according to several whistleblowers. You know, the guy who promised to "deliver [Ohio's] votes to the President".

    Who gives a fuck if J0e Hax0r can compromise a voting machine when secret code can be installed on thousands, if not all, of the voting machines at the last minute with absolutely no oversight and nobody knowing about it? Voting, to borrow from one of the current "President's" minions, is a "quaint" and outdated practice.
  • by XNine ( 1009883 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:03PM (#16541846)
    Considering that paper ballots have been used for TWO CENTURIES. Jesus Christ. Just make a machine that scans the barcode on a piece of paper, punches holes in it, and copies the data so no duplicate votes can be made or votes be changed since there will be a paper back up to turn in that will back up the electronic vote, and the voter gets a carbon copy of the paper. Wow. How hard was that to think up? Now, can I have all of the money that Diebold has been getting?!
  • by fdiskne1 ( 219834 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:12PM (#16541904)

    and the voter gets a carbon copy of the paper

    You had me up until that part. The voter should be able to SEE the paper copy and verify it is accurate without being able to touch it. It is then whisked away, dropped down, or whatever onto a roll, stack or whatever so poll workers have a way to verify the machine counts with paper counts. If they are given receipts, this would provide proof they voted a certain way. Voters should not be given a copy since this opens the door to people being paid or intimidated to vote a certain way. Other than that point, I agree with your post.

  • You, the voter, need to physically move your verified ticket into a box under the watchful eye of the election judge. This MUST NOT be done by machine, unless the machine also does it in an easily visible fashion under the watchful eye of an election judge - which is simply not what's going on.

    I early voted on a Diebold voter verified machine - and it's NOT good enough. I even had a nice conversation with the technical election judge, and since it did print a verified trail I did have to go home and think about this before I realized how it sucked.

    They totally and complete circumvented the idea of a voter verified paper trail.

    The way this machine works is you vote, it prints, you can see-but-not-touch the printout. You can vote AGAIN (up to 3 times) and it voids the previous printouts. Again, without you touching them. Which means the process expects that some percentage of its paper trail will be voided. The printouts get sent into some magic compartment.

    So 1) there's no way except by noise for the election monitors to know if it printed a variety of extra votes. And they were pretty quiet.

    2) There's absolutely zero way to know if it went back and voided your vote, because there's plenty of precedent for voiding votes.

    3) It can absolutely tell via paper alone who voted in which order; it's on a spool. Which could be easily tracked by anyone who watched what order people voted at that machine. Your votes are even less anonymous.


    (Ok, so I posted this on the previous Diebold story - sue me. It's important, so I reposted it, Karma be damned.)
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:22PM (#16541984) Journal
    "Security through obscurity" is diebold's methodology, by obtaining a set of original disks she has exposed a hole in their security and demonstrated the weakness in their methods. Diebold by their actions have basically admitted they belive their code is vunerable to "hackers", that "admission" alone should disqualify paperless voting machines.

    In other words: If diebold can't manage to secure their source code from theft then how the fuck can they be trusted to secure your vote from theft.
  • by clifyt ( 11768 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:30PM (#16542062)
    "A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough."

    Wasn't it just a few weeks ago people were finding the passwords for ATMs 'hidden' right there on the net with instructions on how to reprogram them from the front pannel so that it thought the 20s slot was actually dispensing $5s???

    If this is the security we can expect...well, I just hope my side finds the password list before the other side. Those bastards are slimy cut and run warmongers who want to stay the course of flipflopping.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:35PM (#16542088) Journal
    "These are the guys making ATMs, for goodness sake. A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough."

    If the system were as secure as an ATM network I would have to agree. An ATM gives you a bit of paper to prove the transaction took place and are fully auditable by the bank, the voting machines in question do not give a receipt and do not leave an audit trail. The fact that diebold also makes ATM's indicates nothing less than malice in the design of such a piss poor security scheme for their voting machines.
  • by NuclearDog ( 775495 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:36PM (#16542102) Homepage
    "Vote this way or you're fired, and I want to see the receipt."

    "I lost the receipt."
    "Our company no longer requires your services, we, uh, have decided to consolidate our action points to improve the synergy blah blah blah."

  • by jx100 ( 453615 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:36PM (#16542104)
    I'd argue that the source code for voting machine should be made public in any circumstance. There is *no* reason to keep any part of the counting process secret. If there are exploitable holes in this process, that means the *process* is at fault, and should be redone until there are no holes.
  • Re:New tag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pilkul ( 667659 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:45PM (#16542170)
    Who cares? The actual way tags ended up being used is a lot more in the Slashdot spirit. I, for one, like having one-word snarky commentary right below every story.
  • Not 1337 h4x0rs! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:45PM (#16542174)
    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
  • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:48PM (#16542190) Homepage
    Can't play on ranked servers without a cd key and the gameplay itself is more boring than WoW. I'll stick with BF2.

    And, frankly, the AI is horribly unrealistic. All the little guys that you tell to cast votes... Most of them just ignore you. It's like they don't even notice you, or anything going on. And, the guys being voted for are like crazy over the top cartoon villains. Whoever made this game is obviously a moron, and has no understanding of a decent plot.

    Actually, on a more serious note... I haven't been able to find a torrent. This shit is pretty fucking fundamental to our democracy, and when it finally gets 'leaked,' it manages to stay buttoned up? Seriously, do we know anything about the source? Does anybody have a torrent, or at least asn assessment from somebody qualified to be frightened by looking at it? As far as I'm concerned, every citizen of the US not only should have the right to see the mechanics of demacracy, but an obligation to do so. Anybody who doesn't try to get ahold of the source code running their local voting machines should be considered grossly negligent.
  • >A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough.

    That's not what we're getting, as the research and disclosures have made painfully clear.

    In any case, Diebold has had some trouble with ATMs, including the ATM reprogrammed as a jukebox [] and the ATMs infected by a virus [].

    Voting machines are a harder and more safety-critical application than ATMs. Voting machines have to preseve anonymity. Imagine how that would complicate banking. Then, the worst case failure of an ATM is that some money changes hands inappropriately and laywers earn lots of money sorting it out. The worst case failure of a voting system is an election lost to fraud, meaning the victors are the crooks. The damage is potentially incalculable: think of the nations ruined by having the wrong leaders.
  • Re:New tag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Matilda the Hun ( 861460 ) <flatsymcnoboobs <at> leekspin <dot> com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:25AM (#16542426) Homepage
    Except that, because me and others find this amusing, "wretchedhiveofscumandvillany" will be able to be used to search for articles concerning government corruption (among, I imagine, other things). As for your argument about it gummming up the works, that would be true if each article had a limited number of tags that it could have. But it doesn't. So if you have a tag you like better, stick it on. Don't you just love how the tagging system really works?

    Oh, and I wasted my mod points so I could tell you how people with senses of humour work.
  • by bjorniac ( 836863 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:33AM (#16542464)
    "A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough." No, it isn't. You defraud my ATM you can steal my money, but the bank will reimburse me, and overall there's not much harm done. You steal my vote, you can do a lot worse things to me than take my money away.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:35AM (#16542476) Journal
    Actually, on a more serious note... I haven't been able to find a torrent. This shit is pretty fucking fundamental to our democracy, and when it finally gets 'leaked,' it manages to stay buttoned up?
    It got 'leaked' to Cheryl C. Kagan, a former Congresswoman & obviously someone with a little bit of common sense.

    Kagan did the right thing, which was to contact the state elections officials, who in turn contacted the FBI, who went and talked to Kagan.

    She was part of the Government and respects it enough to try and work within the system.
    Anybody who doesn't try to get ahold of the source code running their local voting machines should be considered grossly negligent.
    Good luck explaining that to a judge. The penalties for messing with anything relating to an election are no joke. Why do you think those discs were delivered anonymously?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:20AM (#16542780)
    The only way having the security level of an ATM works is if the system works like an ATM. You can trust an ATM because there's an auditable record of transactions in your account. When ATM errors or fraud occur, you can point them out to the bank and get them reversed.

    That would work fine for voting as long as the nation is willing to give up the tradition of the secret ballot. Until then, what auditable record exists of your individual vote, with your name attached to it so you can contest the way it was counted?

    Counting secret ballots is *not* the same as posting transactions to audited financial accounts.
  • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:47AM (#16542908)
    (OK, and Diebold also has security issues - but that is a side issue, everyone has security issues. These are the guys making ATMs, for goodness sake. A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough. You can't stop human fraud via a machine - humans win every time.)

    There's even more money and power in cracking elections then there is in cracking ATMs, so no it's not good enough.
  • Give it a rest! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Myria ( 562655 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:36AM (#16543160)
    People will use something for whatever suits them best, not what the marketer says to use it for. Clearly slashdotters want to use tags for one-word comments, so that's what they get used for. Music didn't really occur to the inventors of the phonograph, and look how that turned out.

  • by rHBa ( 976986 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:42AM (#16543190)
    The penalties for messing with anything relating to an election are no joke.

    Unless your initials are G Dubya B...
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:46AM (#16543212) Journal
    I wasn't trying to imply throwing out secret ballots, just pointing out that ATM's are auditable and these machines are not. The "bit of paper" I was talking about is not kept by the voter but the candidates can use them to audit the machines without connecting individuals to "bits of paper".

    The ATM analogy is a bad one since banks must connect an individual to a transaction. Voting machines must not connect an individual to a transaction while still ensuring one vote per person. It's not particularly hard to do, the issues have been well understood for at least a couple of centuries.

    Having said that, diebold have shown they understand security and auditing issues by producing reliable ATM's, they have not done the same for voting machines. Given diebold's experience with ATM security issues it is hard to see how incompetence has played a part in this particular cock-up.
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `'> on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:45AM (#16544320)
    Receipts and audit trails in voting systems are solving the wrong problem.

    If you have a leaky roof, the correct solution is not to install a drainage trough in the floor. If you go down the floor drain route you will eventually end up installing an alarm system to detect blockages, a plug-in air freshener to deal with the smell when the blockage alarm fails to go off and the drain gets blocked, joss sticks for use during power failures when neither the alarm nor the plug-in air freshener work, and you'll still have a leaky roof.

    If there is any way for the person who cast a vote to be able to identify it as theirs, then there is also a way for someone else to do identify who cast a vote. Which creates the opportunity for corruption. If voters are issued with a receipt for the transaction, which they remove, then a failure mode is introduced where the receipt does not match the ballot. Also, unless receipts are readily falsifiable, an opportunity for corruption is created (imagine a boss allowing workers time off to vote as long as they shew their receipt, showing a vote for the local Tory candidate and the boss's cousin, on returning to the factory). And if receipts are readily falsifiable then they are of questionable value. If there is a separate audit log stored within the machine, there is still the failure mode where the log does not match the ballot.

    Much better would be to ensure that procedures are in place such that it is as difficult as possible for the result to be interfered with after a ballot is cast. The easiest and best way of doing this is still pencil-and-paper, one race per ballot, one box per race (with different coloured and/or sized papers, so that a ballot in the wrong box can quickly be identified and moved to the right pile) and manual counting in the polling station, under the scrutiny of representatives of all candidates. Disabled voters should be allowed to bring a carer whom they trust to help them use the same system as everybody else.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:21AM (#16544910) Homepage Journal
    A voting machine that is as secure as an ATM is probably good enough.

    I'll let you in on a dirty little secret. When it comes to security, "good enough" is good enough.

    In the case of ATMs, banks make a huge amount of money (or at least avoid losign a huge amount of business) by having them. But they don't have to be particularly secure -- just secure enough that the marginal cost of adding a bit of security is greater than the marginal increment of savings. In other words in business you don't "spend a buck to save a buck".

    "Good enough" security systems abound; for example credit cards and checks. The security of these systems are extremely lax, and consequently there is a _ton_ of fraud commited with them. But the cost of paying for fraud (to the banks) is less than trying to get an increment of security. Businesses do not subscribe to the "millions for defense, not one dollar for tribute" theory of security.

    It seems like a manufacturer of ATMs would be the perfect manufacturer of voting machines, until you take into account the difference between "good enough" for an ATM and "good enough" for a voting machine. Money is fungible -- a bit of fraud here and there is amply made up by profits elsewhere. Votes are not like that. Having a fair election in 95% of the districts doesn't make up for having a fraudulent election in 5%, especially when those districts can be strategically chosen.

    It would be better to pick somebody with experience in systems where system failures have horrible, unthinkable results rather than a vendor where failures are just an incovenience. Somebody who makes avionics, or medical instrumenation, or defense command and control systems.

  • by lynx_user_abroad ( 323975 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:04AM (#16545306) Homepage Journal
    Does anybody have a torrent, or at least asn assessment from somebody qualified to be frightened by looking at it?

    Let's just suppose, hypothetically like, that a friend who has access to the current source stream for all Diebold software, and has no problems with peeking at (or more), and is extremely well qualified to understand it (let's just say, again, hypothetically like, that he was the key architect for the system, and wrote most of the code himself), and is much more interested in seeing his own vote counted correctly than in seeing Diebold or any politically motivated individual rig the election. Let's also assume, hypothetically like, that while completely reliable, he's one of the tin-foil hat crew who is already convinced that someone is trying to rig the election through rigging voting machine software. More to the point, let's assume that preusing Diebold source code is this dude's full-time job, and if he wants to stay late reviewing code, his employer pays him time and a half.

    How would you suggest my friend go about making sure that the software running on the box he uses to cast his vote is the same one he just finished building at Diebold? Let's assume he knows what version is current, what patches are appropriate, and what every last function in the source does, and he's verified it's all clean. He knows an unrigged machine will display buildID 8675309, but he also knows how easy it would be to make a rigged machine display that as well.

    If you were "my friend", how would you?

    If the software running on the box were "open source" by law, it might solve the problem of clueless coders, and it might allow us to catch the unscrupulous ones, but it wouldn't allow us to address the fundamental problem of having to trust the machine count.

    In this application, having the source code buys you nothing, whether you're allowed to have it or not.

  • by skids ( 119237 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @11:56AM (#16547310) Homepage
    The "penalties" one would suffer for acquiring and distributing this code, the very same penalties that prevent BoEs from publishing it for public inspection, have absolutely nothing to do with any law about elections.

    No, we are talking about software licensing violations and copyright protections. Diebold has a mile-long list of things you can and cannot do with their software -- and they agressively use their lackies inside the BoEs to wield those contract terms in a way that is designed to intimidate those who would try to secure our elections by threatening their jobs.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.