Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Internet voting system set for upcoming elections not secure, computer experts say

23.01.2004


A federally funded online absentee voting system scheduled to debut in less than two weeks has security vulnerabilities that could jeopardize voter privacy and allow votes to be altered, according to a report prepared by four prominent researchers invited to analyze the system. All experts in cyber-security, they say the risks associated with Internet voting cannot be eliminated and urge that the system be shut down.



The report’s authors are computer scientists David Wagner, Avi Rubin and David Jefferson from the University of California, Berkeley, The Johns Hopkins University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, respectively, and Barbara Simons, a computer scientist and leading technology policy consultant. They are members of the Security Peer Review Group, an advisory group formed by the Federal Voting Assistance Program to evaluate the system.

Administrators of this program, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, were charged with finding an easier way for U.S. military personnel and overseas civilians to vote in their home districts. Currently, these voters must rely on absentee paper ballots. But obtaining and returning paper ballot from a distant location can be a frustrating process that sometimes depends on slow or unreliable foreign postal services.


As an alternative, the federal program funded the creation of an Internet-based voting system called the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or SERVE. The system is slated to be used in 50 counties in seven states during this year’s primary and general elections, handling up to 100,000 votes. The first tryout is Feb. 3 for South Carolina’s presidential primary. The eventual goal is to provide voting services to all eligible overseas citizens, plus military personnel and their dependents, a population estimated at 6 million.

While acknowledging the difficulties facing such absentee voters, the authors of the security analysis conclude that Internet voting presents far too many opportunities for hackers or even terrorists to interfere with fair and accurate voting, potentially in ways impossible to detect. Such tampering could alter election results, particularly in close contests.

"Because the danger of successful large-scale attacks is so great, we reluctantly recommend shutting down the development of SERVE and not attempting anything like it in the future until both the Internet and the world’s home computer infrastructure have been fundamentally redesigned, or some other unforeseen security breakthroughs appear," the report states.

The authors of the report state that there is no way to plug the security vulnerabilities inherent in the SERVE online voting design.

"The flaws are unsolvable because they are fundamental to the architecture of the Internet," says Wagner, assistant professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. "Using a voting system based upon the Internet poses a serious and unacceptable risk for election fraud. It is simply not secure enough for something as serious as the election of a government official."

The researchers also believe that if no mishaps occur or are detected during this year’s trial runs with the online voting system, federal or state governments might swiftly expand its use.

"The danger is that this system will work fine in a low-stakes setting like these first trial runs," says Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins and an associate professor of computer science. "That will likely be used as an argument for expanding the system for even wider use. But that’s like saying you don’t ever need to wear a seat belt because you drove to work without crashing the car this morning."

The Internet voting plan, along with the growing use of touchscreen equipment not linked to the Internet, is part of a nationwide move toward greater use of computers, provoked in part by the problems associated with paper ballots during the 2000 presidential election. But the authors of the SERVE analysis conclude that opportunities for tampering are being overlooked in the rush to embrace new election technology.

"The SERVE system has all of the problems that electronic touchscreen voting systems have: secret software, no protection against insider fraud and lack of voter verifiability," says Jefferson. "But it also has a host of additional security vulnerabilities associated with the PC and the Internet, including denial-of-service attacks, automated vote buying and selling, spoofing attacks and virus attacks."

As currently implemented, certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Merchant Marines, the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as U.S. citizens living abroad, are eligible to vote using SERVE. Such voters can go to the SERVE Web site using a Windows-based computer connected to the Internet and cast their ballots.

After studying the prototype system, however, the four researchers said it would be too easy for a hacker, located anywhere in the world, to disrupt an election or influence its outcome by employing any of several common types of cyber-attacks:

* A denial-of-service attack, which would delay or prevent a voter from casting a ballot through the SERVE Web site.
* A "Man in the Middle" or "spoofing" attack, in which a hacker would insert a phony Web page between the voter and the authentic server to prevent the vote from being counted or to alter the voter’s choice. What is particularly problematic, the authors say, is that victims of "spoofing" may never know that their votes were not counted.
* Use of a virus or other malicious software on the voter’s computer to allow an outside party to monitor or modify a voter’s choices. The malicious software might then erase itself and never be detected.

"Voting in a national election will be conducted using proprietary software, insecure clients and an insecure network," says Simons, a former IBM Research Staff Member and a past president of the Association for Computing Machinery. "Congress and the Department of Defense should understand that providing soldiers with an insecure system on which to vote is not doing them any favors."

Sarah Yang | UC Berkeley
Further information:
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/01/21_vote.shtml
http://www.servesecurityreport.org/
http://www.serveusa.gov/public/aca.aspx/

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht On patrol in social networks
25.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

nachricht Tile Based DASH Streaming for Virtual Reality with HEVC from Fraunhofer HHI
03.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Heinrich-Hertz-Institut

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Novel breast tomosynthesis technique reduces screening recall rate

21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Use your Voice – and Smart Homes will “LISTEN”

21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>