Internet Voting, more problems beyond the News Hour report

Last week there was a PBS News Hour report on Internet Voting. It was fair and balanced as far as it went, but maybe a bit too fair to non-scientists and vendors touting Internet Voting. We wished it was more like the symposium in Connecticut where both pro and con members of the panel had adequate time to counter each others’ statements. At Brad Blog, Earnest A Canning has an excellent piece pointing out some additional information not covered in the short News Hour segment PBS News Hour Report Exposes Madness of Internet Voting, Officials Who Push For It Anyway <read>

Disturbingly, the new PBS documentary also reveals that, despite the spectacular failure and warnings from virtually every computer science and security expert, election and Pentagon officials are still pressing forward with what MIT Prof. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Ronald L. Rivest describes, as seen in the short PBS report, as an “oxytopian” solution. “‘Secure Internet voting,'” Rivest charges, “is a bit like the phrase ‘safe cigarettes'”…

 The Revolving Door

In some instances, like that of Paul Stenbjorn, the former Executive Director of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics who first pushed for the live D.C. Internet vote experiment and was then embarrassed by the D.C. Internet Voting Hack, the persistent effort to damn the science, the scientists and the extraordinary failures to move ahead with Internet Voting anyway, might be explained by the fact that he subsequently became the Director of US Operations at SCYTL, a manufacturer of online voting and election systems…

 Reliance upon technology that does not exist

Where, in the PBS report, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) expresses certainty — with no evidence to back it up — that there has been “no breach in our votes,” U.C. Berkley Computer Science Prof. David Wagner, who examined the SCYTL system, reported that there “is no known way to audit Internet voting.”

If there is no way to audit the voting, there is no way to know whether the votes have been “breached” and accurately recorded as per the voters’ intent.

Where Stenbjorn advanced the unscientific prediction that a secure system will be developed in the near future, Wagner, in the same report, noted: “It is not technologically feasible today to make Internet Voting safe against attack.”…

 No security against insider threat

One shortfall of the otherwise excellent PBS report — which includes interviews with a number of computer scientists The BRAD BLOG has turned to for years for their invaluable expertise on these issues — is that it only examined the concerns of system security from the perspective of an outsider attack, like the one that occurred in the D.C. Internet Voting Hack.

Even assuming that it were technologically feasible to prevent an outside attack, this does not begin to address the far more immediate threat that, whenever there is a lack of transparency in how votes are counted, there is a risk that the count can be manipulated by insiders with access to any e-voting system, be it Internet, Direct Recording Electronic (usually touchscreen) voting machines or paper-based computer optical scan systems.

As acknowledged by virtually all computer scientists and security experts, and even confirmed by the highly compromised, GOP-operative-created Baker/Carter National Election Reform Commission years ago, the greatest threat to all such electoral systems comes from insiders. As even the phony Baker/Carter commission noted: “There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries.” Thus, there is almost nothing that can be done to protect against such exploits…

Convenience is no substitute for democracy

During the PBS report, Bob Carey, the Director of the Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program not only expresses the unscientific belief that a foolproof Internet Voting system will be developed within five to six years, but he also downplays the risks identified by computer scientists as “unfair to military voters.”

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