mailing list archives
RE: Evidence Mounts that the Vote Was Hacked
From: "Gary Halleen \(ghalleen\)" <ghalleen () cisco com>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 15:29:05 -0800
Political commentary by a left-leaning talk show host is not worthy of
posting to this list.
It's unfortunate the moderator allowed the posting at all. This article
contained only opinions regarding the discrepancies between the exit polls
and final election results.
I'm not interested in entertaining thoughts of a group of hackers changing
the results of an election, or of a massive conspiracy between elections
managers manually changing Access databases, unless you can back it up with
actual factual data.
Show us log files, packet captures, or e-mail messages from the conspirators
or leave this commentary to gossip columns where it belongs.
From: Jei [mailto:jei () cc hut fi]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 10:41 PM
To: Jay D. Dyson
Cc: Bugtraq; full-disclosure () lists netsys com
Subject: Re: Evidence Mounts that the Vote Was Hacked
On Tue, 9 Nov 2004, Jay D. Dyson wrote:
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
On Mon, 8 Nov 2004, Atom 'Smasher' wrote:
Evidence Mounts that the Vote Was Hacked
Read the whole thing and didn't see any evidence. Just wild
speculation and baseless conjecture. Hell, there were countless
counties across the nation in which more people were registered to
vote than were eligible residents, but -- for some reason -- that ain't
It would be _major_ news, were it not America where it happened.
Even India managed to hold a secure digital election recently, without any
such major exit poll or other discrepancies happening.
Also note that Americans aren't the only people in the world with capable
intelligence agencies. Teenage kid hackers aren't the only people who might
influence US elections' outcomes, given a viable chance. You need to
consider all the factors.
Digital voting needs to be as secure and reliable as bank accounts are from
an independent (democratic) nation's national security point of view. A
digital vote discrepancy == national bank account discrepancy, in it's
importance, in this regard.
Arguing that vote discrepancies don't really matter, is like a system admin
arguing that system binary checksum discrepancies do not matter.
In any case, it means you're royally f*cked, and although you may wish to
fantasize otherwise, it doesn't change the reality.
You need to know that you're secure, or your security people aren't doing
Hitchhiker's World (Issue #9)
Vipul Ved Prakash <mail () vipul net>
This is an interesting time for electronic voting. India,
the largest democracy in the world, went completely paper-
free for its general elections earlier this year. For the
first time, some 387 million people expressed their
electoral right electronically. Despite initial concerns
about security and correctness of the system, the election
process was a smashing success. Over a million electronic
voting machines (EVMs) were deployed, 8000 metric tonnes of
paper saved and the results made public within few hours
of the final vote. Given the quarrelsome and heavily
litigated nature of Indian democracy, a lot of us were
expecting post-election drama, but only a few, if any,
fingers were found pointing.
Things didn't fare so well in the United States. The
Dieobold electronic machines, slated for use in many states
for the November 2004 Federal elections, turned out to have
rather large security holes. Cryptography experts, Avi Rubin
et al, did a formal analysis of the machines and found that
they could be subverted to introduce votes that were never
casted. An independent government-backed analysis
confirmed this and concluded that the Diebold voting
system "as implemented in policy, procedure, and technology,
is at a high risk of compromise."
It is clear, even to a cursory observer, that Diebold
systems are sloppily designed, never mind the sloppiness is
a function of incompetence or intent. The recent controversy
from the "Black Box Voting" security advisory titled "the
Diebold GEMS central tabulator contains a stunning security
hole" has added to the confusion. It claims that a code
entered at a remote location can replace the real vote count
with a fabricated one. This security hole, discovered last
year, is still not fixed says the advisory. In response,
Diebold claims that this is possible, but only in debug
mode, which does little to make people confortable.
What is disturbing to me as a technologist is the
burgeoning public opinion that electronics is an unviable
medium for conducting the serious business of elections.
Over the last year I've seen numerous formal reports and
articles in popular press equating the failures of
Diebold systems with the untenability of electronic voting.
This is rather silly. Diebold systems are not only poorly
engineered, they are also seriously flawed in design. Even
if they were immaculately bug-free, they are so far from
what electronic voting systems should be, that I have
trouble categorizing them as "voting systems". "Electronic
counters" is more accurate.
Various augmentations have been proposed to Diebold systems;
most revolve around parallel paper trails. Verified
Voting for example proposes that a vote be printed based
on the voter's touch-screen selection, so the voter can
touch, feel and verify their vote before casting it into a
traditional ballet box. These votes would then be processed
with an OCR type machine to compute a cumulative result and
the physical votes would be saved so an independent party
can verify the electronic result at a latter date. This is a
reasonable tradeoff -- after all integrity of elections is
way more important than saving trees and time.
While this is the best recommendation for the upcoming
elections, it subtly promotes the primacy of paper and
distrust in electrons. We know that paper elections are no
more secure. The history of vote tampering in paper based
elections is quite illustrious (I'll simply refer the gentle
reader to ) and the reason electronics was considered in
the first place was to eliminate such tampering. Verified
Voting recommends that count of the physical votes is to be
considered superior than that of the electronic counterparts
in case of a difference. What happens if the process of this
count is tampered using traditional methods? We are back to
The central point that I want to get across in this paper is
that the promise of electronic voting is not merely a
quicker, slightly more secure and ecologically enlightened
replacement for paper elections. Electronic voting, if
implemented correctly, could be a major qualitative leap,
not only changing the way in which we approach democratic
elections, but also the the way in which we expect a
democratic government to function.
I want to draw attention to the work done by cryptographic
community in the last 20 years to study, formalize and solve
many of the problems of Internet Voting. This area of work
is focused on building election systems that leave behind a
trail of mathematical proofs of the integrity of the voting
process. With mathematical solutions to the common issues of
vote tampering, it becomes unnecessary to trust election
officials and it becomes possible to build voting systems
that are open and universally verifiable.
A voting system for appointing a democratic government has
certain "ideal properties". These are rather obvious, but I
recount them for the purpose of this discussion. First, all
votes must be counted exactly like they were casted.
Altering a vote, or leaving one out from the final tally
must be impossible. Ballot stuffing, ie. artificial
injection of invalid votes must be impossible as well. The
system should reject non-eligible voters, and ensure
eligible users can cast only a single vote. And, finally,
votes must be absolutely anonymous -- even the voter should
be unable to prove the way in which they voted. Systems like
Diebold's depend on large-scale observation to uphold the
ideal properties. Large-scale observation is hard, and once
an act of tampering is done, there is little that can be
done to detect or correct it. The attacks such as the one
described by the Black Box Voting advisory are particularly
heinous, since they compromise the entire election process.
The ideal properties are true in paper elections when they
are implemented perfectly, but the nature of paper precludes
proofs of correctness without compromising anonymity. The
problems are much the same as in the "Electronic Counter"
systems; without correctness proofs, it is largely
infeasible to detect and correct tampering.
Cryptographers have been trying to emulate the property of
anonymity that is inherent to paper when it us used as cash
or votes. The research in the field has led to invention of
several mathematical primitives and computing systems that
not only model paper but go beyond to provide proofs of the
properties they emulate. Techniques like blind signatures,
homomorphic encryption, digital mixes and onion routing have
been used to build systems that provide strong anonymity.
The pioneering cryptographer David Chaum introduced the
blind signature in order to build permit truly anonymous
interaction on the Internet. Since then, they have been
applied to all manner of problems from untraceable
electronic cash to electronic voting schemes. Blind
signatures are a class of digital signatures that allow a
document to be signed without revealing its contents. The
effect is similar to placing a document and a sheet of
carbon paper inside an envelope. When the envelope is
signed, the signature transfers to the document and remains
on it even when the envelope is removed.
In his paper, Chaum hinted that blind signatures could be
used for secret ballot elections. Fujioka, Okamoto, and
Ohta created the first significant blind signature based
voting protocol, which made it practical to use blind
signatures in democratic elections. However, some problems
were discovered in their work, most notably the system's
vulnerablity to a corrupt election authority. I present a
system, dubbed ``Athens'', that builds on their work, but
solves several problems in their model. I also focus on a
real-world election system, rather than an Internet one, and
adopt a pragmatic approach, in that I make use of physical
resources like volunteers and physical infrastructure
usually available for large-scale democratic elections.
Athens also borrows elements and thinking from the
Sensus system and David Chaum's recent work on Visual
Design of Athens
The basic procedure for conducting a democratic election is
fairly standard. The procedure has four tasks: Registration,
Validation, Collection and Tallying. In Athens, these four
tasks are carried out with a few specialized machines and
software, most of which are connected through the Internet.
While Athens employs an Election Authority to oversee the
process of elections, it does away with the dependence on
trustworthiness of one. Athens philosophy is that there are
no truly non-partisan parties; even the Election Authority
can't be completely trusted. The Athens model is closer to a
"game" between contesting parties, such that the only way to
cheat in the game is for all competitors to collude - an
axiomatic impossibility. The Election Authority performs
tactical tasks to optimize the election process, but all
tasks performed by the Authority are open to review by
Registration is the process of determining eligible voters,
and is conducted by the "Registrar" -- a distributed
authority put in place by the Election Authority. The Athens
registration process involves validating voters (through
traditional means) and registering their "Voter Public Key"
in the "Register." The corresponding "Voter Secret Key"
remains with the voter, magnetically encoded (or bar coded
for cheaper implementation) on a "Voting Card".
The keys are generated through the "Voting Card Creator
Machine". The Card Creator Machine is also implemented as
software that can be used by a voter on their home computer.
It is not hard to imagine Card Creators installed in local
registration offices or even at Kinko's and shopping malls,
where they charge a few dollars for generating a card.
Fairness in design is important, because Card Creators could
compromise the security of the system by storing the key
pairs they generate.
A card creator is mostly an RSA key generator - it needs
computing power of a 300 Mhz PC, and is constructed fairly
cheaply. Once the voter enters their personal information
into the machine, it spits out two cards: one with the
public key, that is handed over to the Registrar and the
other with the secret key and identification information
required by the Election Authority (like the social security
number of the voter.) The second card is known as the
"Voting Card" and is used to validate the voter at the time
of elections. Both cards also contain a large random number,
known as the Voter Id. This is used throughout the voting
process to facilitate lookups in the Register without
compromising the privacy of the voter.
Once all voters have handed their Voter Public Key Card over
to the Registrar, the registration process is considered to
be complete. As with traditional elections, there is a cut-
off date for this process.
On completion of registration, the Election Authority hands
the Register over to all the competitors. The competitors
then check every 1 in 1000 entries (or more according to
their capacity) to ensure that they belong to a legitimate
voter, i.e. it isn't a fake entry inserted by a corrupt
competitor to stuff the ballot. This process is woefully
lacking in elections of today, and a hence a major vector
for election fraud. Mathematics can do little to alleviate
the dangers of registering fake voters, but competitors who
depend on the correctness of the Register and raise funds
for the purpose can easily perform this task. Register
verification would be a lucrative business for independent
professional services organizations, so it is not hard to
imagine such organizations sprouting up to assume delegation
of this responsibility.
The competitors also put the Register on the Internet before
the election so that voters can ensure their voter key is
present in all copies of the Register. When requested, each
competing party provides a digitally signed proof that the
voter is registered to vote, i.e. their key is present in
the Register. The voter, if denied the right to vote, can
take this proof to a court of law. A pre-voting verification
of eligibility limits the kind of fiasco that occurred in
Florida during the Presidential elections of 2000, where a
large number of people were denied vote.
In most electronic voting protocols, there exists the notion
of the "Validator" - a party that holds the Register and
validates voters during the election. In Athens, the
competing parties, that were handed a copy of the Register
in the previous step, all serve as Validators. Athens,
therefore, is a multi-validator system. It is reasonable to
assume that independents or fiscally constrained parties
would team up and have a single Validator represent them.
Validators are connected to the Internet and run Validation
software, that accepts validation requests over a TCP port.
The Validators are firewall'ed off to accept data only from
certain IP addresses. The Electronic Voting Machines talk to
the Validators via a Proxy. EVMs could theoretically talk
directly to Validators, but the reasons for using a proxy
will become apparent later. The Proxy is operated by the
Election Authority and observed by representatives from all
Validators have their own RSA key pair, the public portion
of which is published widely over the Internet. They also
maintain two lists (other than the Register). This is the
list of voters who have casted a vote and a list of
corresponding validation requests.
Before the commencement of the election, the Election
Authority chooses a a random number which is known as the
"Election Number". The only property of this number is its
uniqueness to the election - it should not have been used in
a previous election. The Election Number is distributed to
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in Athens are quite
unlike Diebold's or the ones used in the Indian elections.
Athens' EVMs are simply "agents" that vote on behalf of the
voter. Each EVM has an Id and a RSA key pair. The public
part of the EVM key is published widely over the Internet.
Communications initiated by the EVM are signed with EVMs
secret key. The elections are considered formally commenced,
when the Validators broadcast the Election Number and their
public keys to EVMs via the Proxy.
The Athens Voting Protocol
The voter enters a private booth and swipes their Voting
Card on the EVM. The EVM reads the secret key and the Voter
Id off the Card. The EVM has a little printer attached to
it, much like a cash register receipt printer, on which it
prints out the Voter Id. It the sends the voter Id off to
the Validators via the proxy to initiate a "voting session"
on behalf of the voter. If the voter has already casted a
vote, Validators return a "proof" of previously casted vote.
The proof and its implications are discussed a little later.
If there's no previous vote, the Validators send a positive
acknowledgment and the EVM asks the voter to cast a ballot.
The voter enters their vote using the on-screen display. The
EVM concatenates the Voter's choice with the Election Number
(EN) and the result is encrypted with a secret key (randomly
generated) using a symmetric cipher like AES. The encrypted
ballot is then blinded. At this point, the EVM has:
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.