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Hackers, Public Differ Greatly On E-voting
United States
Your Rights Online
Posted by michael on Fri Aug 06, '04 03:50 PM
from the head-in-the-sand dept.
cweditor writes "Sorry to be touting one of my own Computerworld stories, but I only covered it because I found it so interesting. The Ponemon Institute surveyed 2,933 members of the general public and then 100 DEFCON and Black Hat attendees to get their views on electronic voting. 'The degree of difference was startling,' said director Larry Ponemon. It was the biggest split between 'experts and the public he'd ever found. For example, 83% of the experts said e-voting is less or much less secure against election tampering than paper ballots, compared with just 19% of the general public."

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Hackers, Public Differ Greatly On E-voting | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 369 comments (Spill at 50!) | Index Only | Search Discussion
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
by 2names (531755) on Friday August 06, @03:51PM (#9902404)
(Last Journal: Tuesday December 23, @12:39PM)
The experts know more than the general public. Will wonders never cease?
  • Re:Imagine that. by Random Web Developer (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:04PM
    • Re:Imagine that. by TopShelf (Score:3) Friday August 06, @04:08PM
        Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
        by Teancom (13486) <david@gnuconsult ... com minus distro> on Friday August 06, @04:24PM (#9902867)
        (http://www.google.com/ | Last Journal: Wednesday July 21, @07:40PM)
        Did you actually read the article? All the way to the end, that is? The only thing that actually went wonky was the machine that projects the totals up on the wall. And it was smart enough to know that it hadn't been reset, so it delibaretly put up huge numbers to attract attention to the fact. As the article said, at no time was the actual voting machine off in any way. In short, there are plenty of reasons to dislike or distrust electronic voting, but this is a particulary bad example to use as one of them.
        [ Parent ]
    • Re:Imagine that. by Moofie (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:08PM
    • Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
      by Phisbut (761268) on Friday August 06, @04:20PM (#9902825)
      Maybe people don't hack into the old unpatched NT box because there would be no valuable reason to do so. Or maybe it does get hacked but when the hacker sees there's nothing of interest, he leaves and hunts for another target.

      But election tampering, *now* you've got something valuable. Being able to bypass democracy and nominate (in opposition to elect) the guy who has the power to say "Let's bomb Iraq some more", now you've got a good reason to worry about security.

      I have a little server at home that basically only runs to gather high-scores from a little amateur online game I made. There's no reason for me to patch it ad-nauseum since I don't really care if the machine crashes or gets hacked or anything. Just as a hacker would care about somebody's high score when he sees my server.

      Being paranoid is trying to secure something nobody would want to tamper with. Making sure nobody can hack into the e-voting system that will elect the next president is *not* being paranoid, it's plain ol' common sense.

      [ Parent ]
    • numb by Doc Ruby (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:36PM
      • Re:Imagine that. by nine-times (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:42PM
      • Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
        by lazyl (619939) on Friday August 06, @04:09PM (#9902653)
        Yeah, but how much do these 'experts' know about how secure paper ballots really are? They should also interview a third group: those who are experts in the paper system.
        [ Parent ]
        • Re:Imagine that. by HotNeedleOfInquiry (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:13PM
          • Re:Imagine that. by joggle (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:26PM
            • Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
              by Phisbut (761268) on Friday August 06, @04:30PM (#9902944)
              Sometimes, the old fashioned way is the best way. We had a federal election a couple of months ago in Canada, and it was all paper & pens.

              People could come from 9AM to 9PM to take the piece of paper, go behind the curtain over there, mark the paper with the pen (make an X in a cirle next to the one you want to vote for... not all that complicated), and put the little piece of paper in the sealed box.

              At the end of the day, human beings opened the sealed boxes, with several witnesses (at least one representative of each party, plus other government officials), and hand-counted each ballot. Take one paper, show it to everybody, add 1 to the score of the guy on that ballot, put the ballot in a pile. Repeat the process about 500 times per box, for each of the thousands and thousands of boxes around the country. The whole process of counting takes about an hour, and there's very very few occurences of a party requiring a recount, because everything has been done in front of at least 10 witnesses.

              Where's the need for all that electronic voting stuff? Maybe it goes faster, and maybe the paper-way requires the hiring of more people (thus costing more in salaries), but consider the cost of buying the electronic stuff, then the cost of all the judicial stuff that happens because votes are missing or something got hacked or so.

              Go back to plain ol' paper & pens, and let democracy reign.

              [ Parent ]
          • Re:Imagine that. by bs_testability (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:23PM
              Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
              by abb3w (696381) on Friday August 06, @04:32PM (#9902963)
              since they only interviewed 100 experts to the 2,933 everyjoes,
              Error bars on statistical samples IIR are (N^0.5); thus, percentages have error bars of (N^-0.5). Thus, the 83% expert opinion on 100 experts is +/- 10%; the 19% opinion on 2933 everyjoes has an error of about 1.8%. So, even worst case, the experts are more than three times as likely to distrust the computer voting.

              "Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house." --Heinlein

              [ Parent ]
          • Re:Imagine that. by Anonymous Coward (Score:3) Friday August 06, @04:33PM
            • Re: I believe it depends on the process by Cochonou (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:39PM
              • What "Paper ballots" did John Q think was meant? (Score:5, Insightful)
                by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday August 06, @05:01PM (#9903344)
                (Last Journal: Sunday January 18, @07:45AM)
                Yeah, but how much do these 'experts' know about how secure paper ballots really are? They should also interview a third group: those who are experts in the paper system.

                I think a more telling question is: What "Paper Balots" did John Q Public think he was comparing to the e-voting systems?

                And as usual we have a "game of telephone" going on here:

                - We don't KNOW what the actual question on the survey was.
                - The Computerworld article said "traditional paper ballot machines". (Maybe that was what was actually in the question. Let's assume it for the moment.)
                - But when the Computerworld article's own author posted it to slashdot, he warped it to "Paper Ballots". And this thread is following his lead.

                Now you and I know that paper ballots - the ones with the square boxes with hand-drawn Xes - are subject to some tampering, but it's hard to do it without leaving tracks, while a purely electronic systems is subject to all sorts of invisible breakdowns, from mechanical problems, software bugs, and malicious tampering.

                But if you're talking "traditional paper ballot machines" you just completely dropped that system. Now you're talking about either punchcards, or optical mark sense systems.

                What experience does John Q. have with either?

                With punched cards, his sole reference point on reliability is the media storm over the presidential election in Florida. You know - the one where the democrats are STILL claiming the Republicans stole the election. Optical sense cards are subject to mis-scanning. Both can be hit by operational irregularities (such as not running one stack through while running another through twice.) Both are subject to cheating by replacement of physical ballots (as are all the other systems except e-voting without printed audit trail). Both are subject to exactly the same opportunities for accidental or malicious corruption of the vote counting hardware and software.

                (And don't even get me STARTED on mechanical voting machines...)

                So why SHOULD John Q. think that the e systems AREN'T better than the "traditional paper ballot MACHINES" - whose software has had more time for malicious bug injection and whose hardware and operational systems have been the subject of a recent major scandal?

                IMHO John Q. may be right: All the objections except lack of an audit trail apply to the other paper ballot MACHINE systems, and they also have a better opportunity for misreading through mechanical failure or "user error" than the e systems. And since the audit trail is rarely checked, who's to say that the elections haven't been corrupted for decades.

                IMHO the important thing about this flap is that it could lead to a less corruptable counting system than we've had since I became eligible to vote back in the '60s. The extra opportunity for unchecked vote corruption has lead to a move to eliminate the problem with the new machines by adding an audit trail, and to regular random surveilance of that audit trail. This, combined with the lower MECHANICAL error rate of the systems and the redundant counting mechanism will set a new, higher standard for the OLDER systems, and should lead to a much more accurate count.

                Then, if we move on to eliminating the OTHER sources of election corruption (ineligible voters, multiple registrations, etc.), we might actually come up with fair and accurate elections within what remains of my lifetime. B-)
                [ Parent ]
              • 3 replies beneath your current threshold.
              Re:Imagine that. (Score:5, Insightful)
              by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Friday August 06, @04:10PM (#9902681)
              What makes it even less informative is that these "experts" are not experts in the field that's being discussed. The numbers would at least be interesting if they had actually used experts knowledgable about voting security.
              [ Parent ]
            • Re:Imagine that. by Anonymous Coward (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:11PM
            • Re:Imagine that. by Tackhead (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:16PM
            • Re:Imagine that. by ElForesto (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:20PM
              • pay attention by Doc Ruby (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:32PM
                • ...until they got to question 2 by Kurt Gray (Score:2) Friday August 06, @05:11PM
                  • Re:Imagine that. by Commander Trollco (Score:1) Friday August 06, @05:15PM
                    • Re:Imagine that. by ahdeoz (Score:1) Friday August 06, @07:45PM
                      • Re:Imagine that. by Trillan (Score:2) Friday August 06, @09:47PM
                        • and now, the unpopular opinion by dilvie (Score:2) Friday August 06, @11:49PM
                        • 3 replies beneath your current threshold.
                        Interesting..... (Score:5, Funny)
                        by boschmorden (610937) on Friday August 06, @03:52PM (#9902406)
                        ...but were those polled by e-voting machines? :)
                        Ya Think? (Score:4, Insightful)
                        by darth_MALL (657218) on Friday August 06, @03:52PM (#9902416)
                        What data or insider knowledge does Joe Public have about how this wouldn't be secure? I think they assume its simplified and therefore more secure.
                        I have said it before, and I will say it again (Score:5, Insightful)
                        by YankeeInExile (577704) * <lawrence&cluon,com> on Friday August 06, @03:53PM (#9902432)
                        (http://cluon.com/lawrence | Last Journal: Friday April 30, @12:20PM)

                        Electronic Voting is a solution in search of a problem.

                        Why this fetish for applying complicating technology to simple problems?

                        The point is... (Score:5, Insightful)
                        by Decameron81 (628548) on Friday August 06, @03:53PM (#9902434)
                        The point is that the general public doesn't know what happens behind the scene when they click on a button with their mouse. Maybe the reason those experts don't trust e-voting is because they know it takes only so much to be able to read and modify data going through the net.

                        Just my 2 cents.
                      • have you by Anonymous Coward (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:53PM
                        • Re:have you by Stradenko (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:15PM
                          • Re:have you by downbad (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:46PM
                          • Well, its easy to fool the masses. by KD5YPT (Score:1) Friday August 06, @03:53PM
                          • That's why they call it the 31337... (Score:5, Insightful)
                            by CharAznable (702598) on Friday August 06, @03:53PM (#9902441)
                            It's disturbing when technical issues become central to a wider political issue that involves everybody, yet very few people have the background to understand it or have an informed opinion about it. Software patents is such an issue. This one is too, and much more important. It's quite easy to lie and mislead the general public with it, since few people have the knowledge to see through the bullshit.
                            I have a feeling... (Score:5, Insightful)
                            by odano (735445) * on Friday August 06, @03:53PM (#9902443)
                            That e-voting isn't the only topic which hackers and the general public disagree.
                          • This just in by NeoSkandranon (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:54PM
                            • "compared with just 19% of the general public." by Bodhammer (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:54PM
                              • well duh! by yohan1701 (Score:1) Friday August 06, @03:55PM
                                • Of course they do... by Vexler (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:56PM
                                  • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
                                • no fair (Score:5, Funny)
                                  by pizza_milkshake (580452) on Friday August 06, @03:56PM (#9902476)
                                  it's obvious that the blackhat people tampered with the results of the poll concerning the tamperability of polls
                                  • Trust me... by abb3w (Score:3) Friday August 06, @04:36PM
                                • They're holding out for a fool proof solution... by thirteenVA (Score:1) Friday August 06, @03:56PM
                                • Well, duh... by flying_monkies (Score:3) Friday August 06, @03:57PM
                                  • Psst... by mrchaotica (Score:2) Saturday August 07, @12:43AM
                                  • A Survey at DEFCON about HACKING??? (Score:5, Insightful)
                                    by Lord Grey (463613) * on Friday August 06, @03:57PM (#9902500)
                                    The Ponemon Institute surveyed 2,933 members of the general public and then 100 DEFCON and Black Hat attendees to get their views on electronic voting.
                                    DEFCON is hardly the right place to be conducting a survey about the "hackability" of an electronic voting system. 50% of this year's attendees could probably figure out how to hack the vote before their third Mountain Dew.
                                    Black Box Voting (Score:5, Interesting)
                                    by james_in_denver (757233) <james_in_denver.yahoo@com> on Friday August 06, @03:57PM (#9902501)
                                    It is amazing how trusting (or maybe it's just ignorant) the population is as regards e-voting.

                                    It seems as if they blindly trust our gov't to protect them from voting fraud. It's my opinion that the voting booth is really (short of violence) the ONLY tool that the population has to control their government.

                                    To trust the gov't to keep the vote safe is kind of like putting the fox to work gaurding the henhouse.

                                    The right to a secure, private, verifiable vote is the very foundation our country was built on. It's a shame that more people don't take it seriously.

                                    Visit the Open Voting Consortium" [openvotingconsortium.org] for more indepth thoughts and ideas on this topic.

                                    Yeah, well, we're smarter... (Score:5, Funny)
                                    by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Friday August 06, @03:57PM (#9902502)
                                    .. and we know the difference between a superficially rigged voting system that looks secure, and one that is a sham. I mean, these people should really get a clOMIGOD a GIRL

                                    [runs away and hides]

                                    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
                                    The thing I don't get (Score:5, Insightful)
                                    by dg41 (743918) on Friday August 06, @03:58PM (#9902504)
                                    Is why elections officials are so adamantly opposed to a paper trail? Sure, it creates extra expense in the short term, but it simplifies matters (by using electronic voting, hands down then the chad-bearing cards) and provides an auditable trail.
                                  • how does that saying go... by night_flyer (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:58PM
                                    • Technology as utopia (Score:5, Interesting)
                                      by sgarrity (262297) on Friday August 06, @03:58PM (#9902514)
                                      This seems to be an example of how technology has been sold to us ("the public" in this story) as an always-win net gain.

                                      New is better than old. Expensive is better than cheap. Big is better than small.

                                      This attitude is dangerous. Our collective faith is being misplaced in science and technology - both of which are important, but not perfect.
                                    • Sorry by MarsDefenseMinister (Score:2) Friday August 06, @03:59PM
                                      • Any further proof needed by Archfeld (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:00PM
                                      • It's not that they differ on e-voting... by Rahga (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:02PM
                                        • Followup by Rahga (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:06PM
                                        • Experts, public differ on candidates, too by swb (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:02PM
                                        • Voting public's greatest fear is the truth (Score:5, Interesting)
                                          by dillon_rinker (17944) on Friday August 06, @04:03PM (#9902581)
                                          Look at the graph in the article. The biggest fear of the voting public is "Declines in voter turnout because of fear or distrust of e-voting systems."

                                          In other words, their greatest fear is that people will realize that e-voting is a recipe for fraud and will stay home. Their greatest fear is that people respond rationally to what I think most of us believe is the truth. That just astounds me.
                                        • We have some general public in the "experts" side by majkqball (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:04PM
                                          • P2P voting (Score:5, Insightful)
                                            by revery (456516) <<charles> <at> <cac2.net>> on Friday August 06, @04:04PM (#9902603)
                                            To quote a popular saying, He who counts the votes, elects.
                                            The only way to ensure the safety of ballots is to distribute the counting of ballots among a larger number of people.

                                            The more centralized the ballot counting, the easier it is to corrupt, the more distributed it is, the more difficult it is to corrupt and the greater the likelihood of exposure.

                                            And by distributed, I'm not talking about computers networks, I'm talking about people.


                                            Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar, or the cattle lowing to be slain,
                                            or the Son of God hanging dead and bloodied on a cross that told me this was a world condemned, but loved and bought with blood.
                                          • I probably haven't thought this out... by craenor (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:09PM
                                          • BSOD? by larley (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:10PM
                                            • Re:BSOD? by dustinbarbour (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:47PM
                                              • Re:BSOD? (pictures) by ImaLamer (Score:2) Friday August 06, @05:28PM
                                                • Re:BSOD? by james_in_denver (Score:1) Friday August 06, @10:09PM
                                                  • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
                                              • The more you know, the more you know - Duh! by FunWithHeadlines (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:10PM
                                                • Madness in the Method by char** argv (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:10PM
                                                  • Accessible Voting (Score:5, Interesting)
                                                    by Bondolo (14225) on Friday August 06, @04:13PM (#9902717)
                                                    My wife has been terribly excited by electronic voting because it promises to be accessible. She takes great offense that because she is blind she has to get assistance to vote under the current system.

                                                    It's taken a while, but I've finally convinced her that being able to "vote" is pointless if the "vote" is not counted or they system itself is fundamentally flawed.

                                                    It's interesting that the local newspaper, the Berkeley Daily Planet took the position that being opposed to electronic voting was a scheme to disenfranchise the disabled. It took a while, but following many insightful letters, they finally admitted that electronic voting as currently proposed in Alameda had the more serious potential to disenfranchise everyone!

                                                    As technical professionals it's important we become informed as possible on the subject. That way when your dad or neighbour ask about electronic voting you can explain the dangers and current issues. The more the general public learns about electronic voting, the better off we all will be. (and these survey numbers will be more favourable)
                                                  • Diebold CEO Promises to "Deliver" for Bush by ortcutt (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:14PM
                                                  • 6 out of 10 defcon attendees? by schneidafunk (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:14PM
                                                    • Electronic Voting Needs a Paper Trail by FriedTurkey (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:16PM
                                                    • Simple ignorance by DeVilla (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:16PM
                                                      • Could not be reached... by dr bacardi (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:18PM
                                                      • Hot girl in short pink dress by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:20PM
                                                        • Scientific Literacy (Score:4, Insightful)
                                                          by mdemeny (35326) on Friday August 06, @04:20PM (#9902828)
                                                          I read somewhere that only 5% of the general public has a basic understanding of the concepts behind major everyday items such as a television or a refrigerator. Unfortunately I can't find the source of that figure (but paraphrasing Homer Simpson - "87% of all figures are made up anyways")

                                                          However, this underscores an important weakness in our society. When a TV or fridge was simply a consumer item, it was less important to know how it works. Now that large parts of our economy (finance, software, inventory, logistics), society (arts and culture) and democracy itself is largely controlled by computers this knowledge gap become increasingly important. People looking to control these sectors can increasingly rely on the general populace to not understand the issues involved. Just look at the bills passed regarding the use of technology (DMCA, HAVA, etc.) and you'll see that basic weakness exploited.
                                                          • If voting is to be anonymous... by phurley (Score:3) Friday August 06, @04:21PM
                                                          • Dear humans by apachetoolbox (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:22PM
                                                            • Sombody please explain it.. by Wescotte (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:23PM
                                                            • It should be scarry. by ImaLamer (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:24PM
                                                            • Irony... by fmaxwell (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:25PM
                                                              • Where General Public was later identified to be.. by FerretFrottage (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:26PM
                                                                • How did they poll? by nine-times (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:29PM
                                                                  • The Future of Electronic Voting by eieken (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:31PM
                                                                    • put it to the test by Funky Jester (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:34PM
                                                                      • Secure E-voting by Bandit0013 (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:37PM
                                                                        • Hmm... by doublebackslash (Score:3) Friday August 06, @04:42PM
                                                                        • Which Would Mean....? by 4of12 (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:48PM
                                                                          • Repeat after me... by confused one (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:48PM
                                                                            • Huh? by Anonymous Coward (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:51PM
                                                                              • Interesting... by yodaj007 (Score:1) Friday August 06, @04:51PM
                                                                                • Pokemon Institute? by chmilar (Score:2) Friday August 06, @05:22PM
                                                                                  • Why the hell is it so hard to make this secure? by anakuran (Score:1) Friday August 06, @05:36PM
                                                                                    • That's what they have in Russia by melted (Score:2) Friday August 06, @05:49PM
                                                                                      • I hope they get the security issues worked out by JimLynch (Score:1) Friday August 06, @05:52PM
                                                                                        • lizarb by BinLadenMyHero (Score:2) Friday August 06, @06:11PM
                                                                                          • Re:lizarb by fishbowl (Score:1) Friday August 06, @08:50PM
                                                                                            • Re:lizarb by BinLadenMyHero (Score:2) Saturday August 07, @08:37AM
                                                                                          • Why did those 17 "experts" vote as they did? by Talla (Score:1) Friday August 06, @07:16PM
                                                                                            • Voting on paper is easy to supervise by AtomicJake (Score:1) Friday August 06, @07:20PM
                                                                                              • How many people polled actually vote? by PetoskeyGuy (Score:2) Friday August 06, @07:26PM
                                                                                                • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
                                                                                              • Freedom of the Press BS by OldHawk777 (Score:2) Friday August 06, @08:23PM
                                                                                                • The Ponemon institute by gwalla (Score:2) Friday August 06, @09:52PM
                                                                                                  • It was like this, boss. . . by Fantastic Lad (Score:1) Friday August 06, @10:00PM
                                                                                                    • WOW! Knowledgeable Experts by sciop101 (Score:1) Saturday August 07, @05:06AM
                                                                                                      • Actually by simontek2 (Score:2) Saturday August 07, @05:26AM
                                                                                                        • Re:I wonder... by 1000101 (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:00PM
                                                                                                        • bi-partisan cluelessness by j1m+5n0w (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:08PM
                                                                                                          • Re:Sad News Rick James Dead at 56 by avandesande (Score:2) Friday August 06, @04:58PM
                                                                                                            • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
                                                                                                          • 17 replies beneath your current threshold.
                                                                                                          • HAIR TONICS, please!!
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