[LINK] Electronic voting source code released
me at tony-barry.emu.id.au
Fri Apr 9 14:11:26 EST 2004
Electronic voting source code released
14:22 07 April 04
NewScientist.com news service
A US company that makes software for electronic voting machines has
taken the unprecedented decision to make public all its proprietary
computer code. It hopes this will assuage the fears of voters and
computer experts that the technology cannot be trusted to carry out
free and fair elections.
VoteHere, based in Washington State, has placed the software used to
control some e-voting machines on its website for free downloading. A
"voting machine simulation" is also included that lets programmers see
precisely how the code would work in practice.
"You can actually program it to cheat, and you can watch where the
protocol detects where your ballot was changed," company founder Jim
Adler, told MSNBC. "Now it's up to the world to take a look and dig in
and give us their opinion."
Prior to releasing its source code, VoteHere had it examined by an
outside consultancy firm called Plus Five. A statement from Plus Five
founder Robert Baldwin describes the code as written "in a professional
and consistent style, making it easy to understand and review".
VoteHere's software has yet to be used in any official elections and
the company's code includes a list of improvements that it plans to
make. But Dan Wallach at Rice University in Texas says releasing it is
an important decision. "I applaud VoteHere," Wallach told New
Scientist. "Releasing the code is important for the transparency of any
election using the technology."
Electronic voting devices hold the promise of making elections faster,
cheaper and less prone to the disputes over ballot papers that marred
the 2001 US presidential elections.
However, many experts maintain no electronic voting system can be
considered secure unless there is also a back-up paper trail, which no
existing systems currently provide. "The paper trail is the only way we
know to work around the risk of someone tampering with the code
itself," Wallach says.
E-voting technology has been controversial from the start. In July
2003, academics including Wallach and others at Johns Hopkins
University in Maryland, claimed to have discovered serious flaws in the
computer code used to operate the most popular US e-voting machines,
made by Ohio-based company Diebold.
The code was taken from the company's website and posted online
without permission and Diebold has always maintained that it was
unfinished. Despite such concerns, Diebold's e-voting machines were
certified for use in September 2003.
Experts also expressed concern in January 2004 when some of Diebold's
voting machines were revealed to be designed to enable the wireless
transmission of votes. They warned that this could make the devices
more vulnerable to outside tampering.
In the same month the Pentagon also cancelled an online voting
experiment after a group of academics concluded that no internet-based
election system could be completely secure.
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