Online voting system names winners in Canada

As the Connecticut General Assembly contemplates online voting, we should contemplate the implications of the recent Liberal Party online vote. In this case it was a landslide. What if it was very very close? Or there were polls saying the other candidate should have won by a comfortable or even a small margin? Would we trust the result? Should we?

Canada’s Liberal Party Holds Online Primaries While Security Experts Scowl <read>

Canada’s Liberal party elected a new leader last week. And for the first time in the party’s history, the voting took place online. Justin Trudeau, the telegenic son of the late Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s most famous prime minister, won in a landslide with over 80 per cent of the vote. But online voting critics say that despite the decisive results, the Internet remains an unsafe place to cast your vote.

Impossible to ensure security and anonymity

“If the Conservative party want to select the next Liberal party leader, this provides them with the perfect opportunity,” says Dr. Barbara Simons, an online voting expert, and co-author (with Douglas Jones) of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? “I am not saying the Conservatives would do this — I’m just saying this is a very foolish and irresponsible thing for Liberals to be doing, because they open themselves up to vote-rigging that would be almost untraceable, and impossible to prove.”

Simons draws parallels between the risks involved in voting and banking online. She points to viruses like ZeuS (“It’s my favorite virus, because it is incredibly smart,”) which has been used by criminals to steal millions of dollars from online bank accounts, leaving its victims none the wiser.

“I think many people feel that what they see on their screen is what goes out on the Internet,” says Simons. “They don’t appreciate the fact that these are different components, and there is software in between that can change the results – they can vote for candidate A, and a virus can change their vote to candidate B, and they wouldn’t know.”

Actually online voting is more risky that online banking because there is no receipt or audit available to determine if votes were counted for the correct candidate. But as Dr. Simons says, banking is risky even with bank owned ATM’s.

For those doubters here are 2,904 reasons in New York City alone, that Internet banking and Internet voting can be costly:

In Hours, Thieves Took $45 Million in A.T.M. Scheme <read>

It was a brazen bank heist, but a 21st-century version in which the criminals never wore ski masks, threatened a teller or set foot in a vault.

In two precision operations that involved people in more than two dozen countries acting in close coordination and with surgical precision, thieves stole $45 million from thousands of A.T.M.’s in a matter of hours.

In New York City alone, the thieves responsible for A.T.M. withdrawals struck 2,904 machines over 10 hours starting on Feb. 19, withdrawing $2.4 million.

The operation included sophisticated computer experts operating in the shadowy world of Internet hacking, manipulating financial information with the stroke of a few keys, as well as common street criminals, who used that information to loot the automated teller machines.

Editor’s Note: We seem to repeatedly harp on some subjects over and over, like the risks of mail-in voting and all forms of Internet voting. Yet, it also seems that the message never quite makes it that both are very vulnerable in theory and in practice. We will keep at it, working for rational discussion and evaluation.

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