Thursday, October 30, 2008

Welcome, to the machine

Scare the crap out of you much?

ComputerWorld has a story about a Princeton University report that describes alleged vulnerabilities related to the Sequoia AVC Advantage direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine used in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states. The Princeton report claims that the AVC Advantage is easily hackable.

The partially-redacted report, which was ordered pursuant to a Court Order by the Hon. Linda Feinberg of the New Jersey Superior Court as part of a 2004 Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic lawsuit seeking to decommission of all of New Jersey’s voting computers, states:

"The AVC Advantage 9.00 is easily 'hacked,' by the installation of fraudulent firmware. This is done by prying just one ROM chip from its socket and pushing a new one in, or by replacement of the Z80 processor chip. We have demonstrated that this 'hack' takes just 7 minutes to perform."

Because of this and other security-related issues, the Princeton report has as one its main conclusions that, "New Jersey should not continue to use the AVC Advantage 9.00, because it is insecure."

Sequoia strongly disagrees with the Princeton report's conclusions:

"Many of the scenarios painted by the academics hired by the Plaintiffs depend on the existence of crooked, malicious and corrupt pollworkers. The success of some scenarios depends on BOTH corrupt pollworkers and inattentive voters."

Given the claims and counterclaims, I won't speculate on how the judge will rule. At the very least, this report adds more fuel to a very large bonfire concerning the security and accuracy of e-voting machines.

Just last week, for instance, the Kansas City Star had an article stating that, "Texas-based Premier Elections Solutions last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade."

Seems that the software problem could drop ballot totals for entire voting precincts.

Oops.

Next Tuesday night and Wednesday morning could get very interesting wherever there are close elections and e-voting machines have been used. The potential number of bitter election result challenges could make the 2000 election look tame.

Technology-not always the right answer.