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Even A Remote Chance?

By Pokey Anderson
July 2006

Imagine sitting in your favorite easy chair with a remote control, and being able to just push EJECT and get George Bush out of office. Or, let’s say you’re on your laptop, and you can dial up a regime change.

“Hmm,” you say, “I’m feeling like blue today. Blue is a nice color. I think I’d rather have Kerry for president.” Let’s say you’re up late, it’s November 2nd, you see that Kerry is losing in Ohio, and you say, “the HELL with that!” So, with your laptop, you dial into the tabulator for, let’s just say, 41 of 88 counties in Ohio. And, you switch 14 votes per precinct from Bush to Kerry. Voila. Kerry wins.

Could that happen?

Or, um, the other way around—Kerry is winning, and someone dials in and changes a dozen or so votes in each of roughly half the precincts in Ohio, and VOILA, Bush wins Ohio. (A flip of a dozen votes in 5,000 precincts would result in a net change of 120,000 votes in Ohio, more than the tallied margin that separated the two candidates.)

Remote control of elections? Science fiction, right? Start playing the Twilight Zone music? Not exactly.

DIEBOLD—Hack Testers Waltz In

Let’s look at a test that was done for the State of Maryland on the Diebold electronic voting equipment. The testers used actual Diebold election equipment and, after a week’s study, attempted to hack and manipulate it. The newspaper report said they were nearly “giddy” with their success.

“One guy picked the locks protecting the internal printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once—and get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software.”

The team was able to remotely upload, download, and execute files with full system administrator privileges. Results could be modified at will, including changing votes from precincts.

“My guess is we’ve only scratched the surface,” said Michael A. Wertheimer, who spent 21 years as a cryptologic mathematician and code breaker at the National Security Agency.

As a bonus, the team of test hackers from RABA Technologies was able to change votes and exit the system without a trace of their visit. Slick! Wertheimer said, “If you believe, as I do, that voting is one of our critical infrastructures, then you have to defend it like you do your power grid, your water supply.”

The State of Maryland head of elections read the testers’ report and promptly issued a press release.

I couldn’t make this stuff up; here is what Linda Lamone said, “To this date, there has never been an election compromised. The findings in the SAIC and RABA reports both confirm the accuracy and security of Maryland’s voting system and procedures as they exist today.” And, Maryland bought the Diebold electronic voting machines. ... Read the rest of the essay (pdf)

A glitch here, a glitch there.
Pretty soon you've got a whole country
whose leaders are unelected,
unhinged from the wishes of We the People,
and unhinged from reality.
~ Pokey Anderson

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Copyright © 2006 Pokey Anderson