Friday, November 25, 2005

Hack the Vote 

Let us put this as bluntly as we can: every state should be doing what California is doing. And in every state that is not doing what California is doing, voters should demand to know why:
A computer hacker will be trying to break into one of California's electronic voting machines next week, with the full cooperation of the secretary of state.

Harri Hursti, a computer security expert from Finland, will be trying to demonstrate that voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems are vulnerable to attacks by computer hackers seeking to manipulate the results of an election.

The stakes are high for Diebold, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems. The company is trying to get its new voting system approved for use in California, the nation's biggest market, but Secretary of State Bruce McPherson refused certification after 20 percent of the new, printer-equipped voting machines malfunctioned during a July test in San Joaquin County . . . .

Last May, Hursti and another computer security expert tested a Diebold system for the elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla. They quickly broke into the system, changed the voting results and inserted a new program that flashed the message "Are we having fun yet?" on the computer screens.

"Granted the same access as an employee of our office, it was possible to enter the computer, alter election results and exit the system without any physical record of this action,'' said Ion Sancho, the election supervisor, in a report on the county's Web site.

The California test will use a randomly selected voting machine from one of the 17 counties that use a Diebold system -- either touch screen or optical scan machines. The original plan for the test would have used a machine provided by Diebold, something opposed by the state and the critics of the company.

"We want to test a machine that's already been used in a California election,'' said Jim March, an investigator for Black Box Voting, the consumer group bringing in Hursti for the test. "We want to avoid a so-called 'lab queen,' a voting machine specially rigged for the test.''

Black Box Voting and other groups have complained that the programs loaded into the Diebold machines can be undetectably changed to provide a specific election result. Officials of the company argue their machines provide secure, accurate results.
UPDATE: New Diebold irregularities in Ohio.

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