James.Ryan on 12 Nov 2000 12:13:25 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> our election has a hint of the global

I certainly wouldn't trust any "computerized" system that didn't leave behind a paper trail.  Without some form of paper ballot, how could you do a
re-count in the case of error, human or computer?
Read the following which appeared on the Risks list recently:

--------- Begin Forwarded Content ---------

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 2000 12:46:51 -0800 (PST)
From: reality@vortex.com ("Reality Reset")
Subject: "REALITY RESET": "Hacking the Vote"

                                  "REALITY RESET"
                     Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com)

                                   November 8, 2000
                                 Today's Edition:
                           "Hacking the Vote"


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"Hacking the Vote" (November 8, 2000)

"If they'd been listening to me all along, all of this election confusion
could have been avoided," said Paddy Mastoid.

Paddy is the president of trust-us-not-to-badly-screw-up-your-vote.com, a
firm promoting Internet voting systems.  I found 12 messages from him on my
voicemail this morning, as the nation awoke to the bizarre aftermath of
election day, with a historically close election still undecided and the
U.S. population swinging slowly in the wind.

"Look at this mess," said Paddy.  "Now they have to re-count all those votes
in Florida, there are concerns over voting irregularities down there, and we
might well end up with a President who didn't even win the popular vote!
Talk about not having a mandate.  And I could have prevented all of this

"How so?" I asked.

"Basically, our plan is to eliminate all those long lines at those obsolete
polling places.  We want to toss the antiquated paper ballots, punch cards,
and mechanical voting machines out the window.  We'll let people vote online
using the same home and office PCs that they already use for accessing
offshore gambling sites and downloading porn."

"Hmmm.  Sounds like a tempting goal, but aren't you worried about security,
reliability, all that sort of stuff?" I asked.

"Hey, we didn't just fall off the turnip truck.  We're using secure,
redundant Web servers, so your vote will be just as safe as your credit card
numbers during online purchases," said Paddy.  "You're happy buying things
online, aren't you?"

"Well, no, not really, not with all of the security breaches at sites that
were supposed to be secure, and their compromising of personal information.
I realize that things can go wrong with old-style voting systems, especially
if they're set up badly, but at least with them it's usually possible to do
various forms of meaningful re-counting when there's a question about an
election's validity."

"But that's my whole point!" said Paddy.  "Look at all the trouble being
caused by even being *able* to do a physical re-count.  Wouldn't it be better
to have a nice, computerized system where all the votes are electronic and
stored safely in computers where nobody but programmers, system
administrators, and top election officials can screw around with them?  You
don't think any of those guys would mess things up do you?  When it's all in
the computer, you don't have any *choice* but to trust the computer!  You
can't really re-count so there'd be no point to complaining.  Problem

"Hmmm.  What about hackers?  If these systems are on the Internet, they'd
seem just as vulnerable to attack and manipulation as any other so-called
secure sites."

"Not to worry!" said Paddy.  "We ran a contest and invited hackers to crack
our demonstration system.  Five people tried and the only guy who got in was
a 12 year old kid in West Palm Beach, and he promised cross-his-heart not to
tell anyone how after we gave him a DVD player!  No problem there."

"But why would most hackers even want to tip their hands by playing with your
demo sites?  Wouldn't the real pros just wait until a real election and then
flood your servers with garbage to block real voters out?  Couldn't they
plant surprises in unrelated downloads that could hide on people's PCs for
months or years before being activated on election day to disrupt or
manipulate the voting process?  There's really no way to secure the typical
operating systems that most people have on their home or office computers
from those sorts of attacks," I said.

"Picky, picky, picky!" said Paddy.  "I say let's just deploy these Internet
voting systems now and keep the people happy.  If these hypothetical hackers
you're talking about are really that good, we probably wouldn't even realize
that they'd been screwing around with the election anyway.  Ignorance can be
bliss.  And that would sure be preferable to all the hassles they're having
in Florida today!"

"I really don't think that's necessarily true ..."

"And at least we wouldn't have network TV anchors getting punchy from being
up all night!" said Paddy.

"You do have a point about that," I said.

"I knew that I could convince you, Lauren."

Lauren Weinstein,
lauren@pfir.org or lauren@vortex.com or lauren@privacyforum.org
Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Copyright 2000 by Vortex Technology.  All rights reserved.
This item may be freely redistributed so long as it is complete
and includes this notice.

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--------- End of Forwarded Content ---------

                    molly hankwitz                                                                                         
                    <mollybh@pop.netspace        To:     nettime-l@bbs.thing.net                                           
                    .net.au>                     cc:                                                                       
                    Sent by:                     Subject:     <nettime> our election has a hint of the global              
                    2000/11/11 13:28                                                                                       
                    Please respond to                                                                                      
                    molly hankwitz                                                                                         

The results of the election have a hint of the global about them...as one of
the factors yet to determine the true count in this close race is news that the
numerous absentee ballots from overseas populations, especially military
personnel, are still to be tallied. There seems to be some significance to this

A potential outcome may also be, the replacement of some State's worn-out
mechanical voting machines which have been inaccurate and difficult to use (NY
Times reported arcane equipment ) with better, computerized systems for casting
ballots.  Just a thought.


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