Friday, September 30, 2011

Was Alaska's Diebold Accu-Scan System Hacked in 2004 and 2008 - Probably

I felt that way in 2004, in the Knowles-Lisa Murkowski contest.  Even more so in 2008, particularly regarding the Ethan Berkowitz-Don Young race.

The Alaska Democratic Party went to court over the handling of electronic voting in the 2004 count.  Berkowitz declined to look into the serious anomolies in his race against Young.

In 2010, one of the elements in Joe Miller's suit to force a hand count in his loss to Lisa Murkowski was over the potential inaccuracy of our generic voting machine here, the Diebold Accu-Scan system.  The Alaska courts declined to honor Miller's request to get enough hand-counted votes that had been aggregated from these machines to get a sample of their accuracies, or potential inaccuracies.  Miller even brought this vulnerability up after the August 2008 primary.

I've written about these issues before.  Peoples' eyes glaze over whenever one brings up electronic voting machine hacking.  For one thing, it seems to a lot of people to be a conspiracy theory.  And there's no sexy tag one can attach to the issue that would help bring it to the forefront of political discussion.  After all, in the American system, all's fair in love, war and politics.

My two heroes on this issue nationally are Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, and Brad Friedman of the BRAD BLOG.  Bev has been in the struggle to find the truth longer.  Brad has reached a lot more people.

Wednesday, Friedman published a story at Salon that should be national headlines, but barely made it beyond a few of the liberal and progressive blogs:
It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

"We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines," said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team "We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine."

The Argonne Lab, run by the Department of Energy, has the mission of conducting scientific research to meet national needs. The Diebold Accuvote voting system used in the study was loaned to the lab's scientists by, of which the Brad Blog is a co-founder. Velvet Revolution received the machine from a former Diebold contractor

Previous lab demonstrations of e-voting system hacks, such as Princeton's demonstration of a viral cyber attack on a Diebold touch-screen system -- as I wrote for Salon back in 2006 -- relied on cyber attacks to change the results of elections. Such attacks, according to the team at Argonne, require more coding skills and knowledge of the voting system software than is needed for the attack on the Diebold system.

Indeed, the Argonne team's attack required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge, of the voting machine's proprietary source code. It was carried out by inserting a piece of inexpensive "alien electronics" into the machine.

Over 90% of Alaska votes are entered into products vulnerable to these attacks, and have been since the system was installed during Gov. Knowles' second term.  Although a lot of scrutiny toward defects in electronic voting systems has been directed toward touchscreen machines, the main Alaska machine, the Accu-Scan system is equally vulnerable.  Here's Brad Friedman Thursday:
This afternoon on my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK here in Los Angeles (and up and down the West Coast) I interviewed Dr. Roger Johnston of Argonne National Lab's Vulnerability Assessment Team on their $26 "Man-in-the-Middle" attack on a Diebold touch-screen voting system as I reported yesterday in my exclusive at Salon (and here at The BRAD BLOG.)

While yesterday's reports included information on the team's previous, similar-ish hack of a Sequoia touch-screen system, and the fact they feel they could do the same with most other e-voting systems, among the interesting new points raised during our discussion on KPFK today is that Johnston believes they could use a similar method to manipulate the vote count on a paper-ballot based optical-scan system as well!

So, in other words, the low-rent attack Argonne has demonstrated --- requiring no knowledge of the voting system software, $10 to $26 in off-the-shelf computer parts, and little more than an 8th grade computer lab education --- could also be implemented not just on touch-screen e-voting systems, with or without a so-called "paper trail," but also on the paper ballot op-scanners used to count the majority of votes that will be cast in the U.S. in next year's Presidential election.
That this is an important issue for Alaskans to consider was realized earlier Thursday by the blogs Mudflats and Immoral Minority.  Jesse Griffin at IM wrote:
After what happened in 2000 during the Bush v Gore election, I have been convinced that the Republican motto is "win at all cost."

They no longer care about democracy, or fair play, or the will of the people. All they care about is winning.

And as long as these incredibly faulty machines are still being controlled by that party, and we know that they are, the ONLY way we have of beating them is by having our candidates win by the largest margin possible.

Unless something changes concerning these machines in the next year, the only way that we can ensure a victory for our democracy is by making sure that people turn out to vote, and to make sure the vote they cast is the one that is recorded.

Which is why whenever I hear a progressive suggest that they will stay home because this President is not EXACTLY who he  wanted him to be, I literally want to throttle them into unconsciousness.

This is not a game, this is serious.  The very definition of who Americans are is at risk and the Republicans have already demonstrated that they have NO intention of playing by the rules.

In other words, THIS seems like the perfect job for Homeland Security.

I have sent them an e-mail with the article, if you would like to do the same here is their contact information
I like his passion, but he is disingenuous to think that Obama is less into winning at all costs than the GOP.  He's certainly right that the vulnerability is, as it always has been, a threat to American democracy.

At Mudflats, bringing up the 2010 Miller campaign's concern about voting machine hackability, Jeanne Devon attacked this problem humorously:
I roll over lazily, stretch, yawn, and open one eye…

I do a combined gasp/shriek, recoil a little, and bury my face in the pillow.

Yes, my strange bedfellow is still here. I thought he left after the 2010 election, but apparently not. Given that you all know how I feel about former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, that I agree with virtually none of his political philosophy, and that I am grateful every day that he is not in Washington, 

D.C., he does bring up an interesting point to the readers of his website.

The topic of the article is pretty much the only thing I agree with Joe Miller about, with the notable exception of the fact that I, too, would rather have had Scott McAdams as Senator than Lisa Murkowski. Miller’s website links to an article by a man many of you know from The Mudflats, one Mr. Brad Friedman. He is more used to having strange bedfellows than I am, and this is because the issue closest to his heart, and the one to which he devotes an incredible amount of time, is election integrity.

Election integrity simply means that your vote should count one time, and represent the actual way you voted. It means having confidence in the methodology and accuracy of the vote count. Seems simple enough, and most people just assume this to be the case. That’s what representative democracy is all about, right? One person, one accurately-counted vote.

The more you learn about this issue, the more horrified you will get. Not just in Alaska, but across the nation there are consistent problems with ensuring an accurate vote. Machines can be manipulated, numbers changed, ballots are kept in unsecured locations, results show that they were changed with no record of who did it or when…

Republicans are the main culprits suspected of the hinkiness, but there are exceptions. As it always is with the human beings, the people tempted to abuse power are the ones who have it. So, election integrity is NOT a partisan issue. It is amazing though, that when you stick up for the principle, how often you will be accused of being partisan. Just ask Brad Friedman who, depending on what side happens to be in his cross-hairs, has been accused of being a Republican hack, or a “Democrat” hack.
It should be said also, that The Mudflats got its share of grief by agreeing with Joe Miller that the Alaskan voting system is broken, and needs to be repaired. But we march on anyway, because in this case, regardless of how brutal the game is between the red shirts and the blue shirts, we all must agree on the rules or there is no game.
At RT TV, Thom Hartmann chose to also use humor in his take on what the revelations of the Argonne Laboratories study might mean:

This is more serious than most people think. Perhaps, though, the snark exuded by Devon and Hartmann will help give the story legs indignant obstinance has failed to lend it.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what normal, average voters can do about this problem. Demand recounts on all races?

As for Joe Miller-- had he been winning, he'd have never cared about the inaccuracies of the system.

HarpboyAK said...

What normal, average voters can do is insist to their legislators that we go back to a simple paper ballot with hand counting teams.

A simple hand count, using rules where each ballot's votes are read an announced, and "Tally" is called for every fifth vote for a candidate, and where each party has members on the counting team and all members must agree on all the totals, is the only way to go.

KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid.