The New York Times is reporting that computer scientists easily hacked into voting machines used throughout California.
Computer scientists from California universities have hacked into three electronic voting systems used in California and elsewhere in the nation and found several ways in which vote totals could potentially be altered, according to reports released yesterday by the state.
This comes as no surprise to those of who work in the software industry and understand the challenges of securing and hardening our products. Thankfully, the Democrat-controlled Congress is moving to rectify the situation and restore integrity to our balloting process:
The reports, the latest to raise questions about electronic voting machines, came to light on a day when House leaders announced in Washington that they had reached an agreement on measures to revamp voting systems and increase their security.
The House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts.
The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, and the original sponsor of the bill, Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, said it would require hundreds of counties with paperless machines to install backup paper trails by the presidential election next year while giving most states until 2012 to upgrade their machines further.
The vulnerabilities that have now been exposed could induce the California Secretary of State to decertify these voting machines for the 2008 election setting off a scramble among California's counties to come up with a replacement. As is often the case, the scientists discovered that security was an afterthought for these devices and not part of the original design.
Matthew A. Bishop, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, who led the team that tried to compromise the machines, said his group was surprised by how easy it was not only to pick the physical locks on the machines, but also to break through the software defenses meant to block intruders.
Professor Bishop said that all the machines had problems and that one of the biggest was that the manufacturers appeared to have added the security measures after the basic systems had been designed.
Personally, I prefer optical scanning systems like the Diebold Accu-Vote OS. The system is low-tech and provides an indisputable paper trail that can be manually recounted if necessary. Congressional Republicans on the other hand, because of their close ties to the voting machine industry, generally prefer the highest tech systems with no paper trail and the greatest level of vulnerabilities and insecurity. Republicans just love their voting machines, and they will be squealing like stuck pigs as the Democrats move legislation to restore integrity to our voting procedures. Just watch.
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