3 states mandate more security for Diebold e-voting machines | VailDaily.com

3 states mandate more security for Diebold e-voting machines

SAN FRANCISCO – Officials overseeing elections in three states have directed local authorities to take additional security measures with a popular type of electronic voting machine to prevent election fraud.California, Iowa and Pennsylvania issued the voting directives in recent weeks after researchers discovered a feature that could allow someone to load unauthorized software on Diebold Election Systems computerized machines.A hacker theoretically could use the software to rig or sabotage an election or to perform some other unauthorized function, said Michael Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University.”It’s worse than a hole,” said Shamos, who has been briefed on the vulnerability of the Diebold machines. “It’s a deliberate feature that was added by Diebold that we all believe is unwise.”In the wake of the ballot-tabulating problems that plagued the 2000 presidential election, electronic voting has become a flash point for many people concerned about fair elections. Critics charge that electronic voting machines are too susceptible to fraud and error to be trusted and should not replace traditional balloting until proper safeguards are installed.Diebold spokesman David Bear said there is no evidence electronic results have been subject to tampering. He added it would be hard for anyone to exploit the recently discovered flaw if officials follow security procedures already in place, but that Diebold is developing a permanent solution to address concerns.The additional safeguard spelled out in the directives “is one more redundancy to ensure the security of the election,” Bear said.Pennsylvania officials warned local election registrars last week about the vulnerability in the mechanism that installs and upgrades software on Diebold equipment. It said the risk of the vulnerability being exploited was “low” because a person would need physical access to the machine’s memory card slot while the system was being booted up.Until Diebold, a unit of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold Inc., delivers a permanent solution, the notice instructed local officials to reinstall the authorized software just before testing the machine and certifying it for use. Directives issued in California and Iowa called for similar procedures.Diebold machines are used in 16 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, said Leslie Amoros, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State. Pennsylvania’s primary election is scheduled for May 16.In California, 12 of 58 counties use Diebold machines with the vulnerability, according to Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman with the Secretary of State’s office.About 30 percent of counties in Iowa use electronic voting machines, affecting about 7 percent of Iowa voters, said John Hedgecoth, a spokesman for the Iowa Secretary of State.The security flaw was discovered by a researcher for Black Box Voting, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has criticized the security of electronic voting in the past. The group expects to release a report on the vulnerability this week, director Bev Harris said.The flaw was reported Wednesday by the Oakland Tribune.—On the Net:http://blackboxvoting.org

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