Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Government The Almighty Buck News

Diebold Admits ATMs Are More Robust Than Voting Machines 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the votes-on-the-cheap dept.
An anonymous reader points out a story in the Huffington Post about the status of funding for election voting systems. It contains an interesting section in which Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier (formerly Diebold) acknowledged that less money is spent making an electronic voting machine than on a typical ATM. The ironically named Riggall also notes that security could indeed be improved, but at a higher price than most election administrators would care to pay. Also quoted in the article is Ed Felten, who has recently found some inconsistencies in New Jersey voting machines. From the Post: "'An ATM is significantly a more expensive device than a voting terminal...' said Riggall. 'Were you to develop something that was as robust as an ATM, both in terms of the physical engineering of it and all aspects, clearly that would be something that the average jurisdiction cannot afford.' Perhaps cost has something to do with the fact that a couple of years ago, every single Diebold AccuVote TS could be opened with a standard key also used for some cabinets and mini-bars and available for purchase over the Internet."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Diebold Admits ATMs Are More Robust Than Voting Machines

Comments Filter:
  • by 4solarisinfo (941037) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:26AM (#23196324)
    Polotics and money, what a great parallel. We should just combine the two. "Would you like an extra $5 to vote for candidate X?"
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:42AM (#23196468) Journal
      Polotics and money, what a great parallel.

      So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.

      Tne bankers and stockbrokers know what's important in America, and it isn't your vote. What's important ios the campaign "contribution" bribery to both major party candidates.
      • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:03AM (#23196638) Journal

        So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.

        I'm not sure this is a valid conclusion. The same people aren't making decisions in each case. And while we like to think we place a high value on the integrity of our voting system, it's hard to put a dollar figure on that, which is what the people running the budget need.

        Banks, on the other hand, can easily place a dollar figure on the value of their ATMs' security, and show their decision-makers that X dollars spent on securing them will easily pay for itself.

        I'm not happy with the situation, but I don't think you've got a single set of people saying "transactions are more important than votes."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Banks, on the other hand, can easily place a dollar figure on the value of their ATMs' security, and show their decision-makers that X dollars spent on securing them will easily pay for itself.

          Then why don't they do this for credit card fraud ? Europe has had chips with private/public key exchange for a good 20 years while the US still relies on the megnetic strip + signature leading to widespread faud.

          Right, one way or another the money comes out of somebody's pocket (yours or the store's) and the CC company benefits along the way. Crooks.

          • by Amouth (879122) on Friday April 25, 2008 @10:00AM (#23197908)
            because for now.. the CC companines don't lose the money.. if you stole my card and went and bought shit and i report it as fraud.. then i pay a fee (50$ i think) and the CC refunds me my money and then charges back to the company where you bought shit..

            so in reality.. the CC has to do a few more transactions and alittle leg work.. (what my 50$ covers) and the company selling stuff gets nothing but lost inventory and the fraud guy makes off with the stuff..

            untill the CC companies here in the US are held accountable for the transactions then they have zero incentive on putting together more expenisve and effective security into the cards/transactions.. because it doesn't effect their bottom line..

            and the reatail places are screwed because their only option is to stop accepting CC's.. and if you do that in the US you might as well clsoe your doors as most of the population doesn't cary cash any more.. and sadly most of them don't have the cash to cary.
        • by tha_mink (518151) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:56AM (#23197172)

          So the banks are more impportant than the ballots here. But it's what one would expect in a plutocracy.
          --And--

          I'm not sure this is a valid conclusion. The same people aren't making decisions in each case. And while we like to think we place a high value on the integrity of our voting system, it's hard to put a dollar figure on that, which is what the people running the budget need.
          Not only that, but I think it's important to point out that there are not a whole lot of people using pickup trucks to smash through the front doors of polling stations trying to steal voting machines. I know everybody thinks that Bush stole the election but it wasn't because the election machine didn't weigh 10,000 lbs. So yeah, I think that maybe you can't compare the cost of an ATM machine to a voting machine. After all, the cost of making paper ballots were never compared to to cost of making a dollar bill.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It should be abundantly clear at this point to all concerned that unchecked capitalism (whether libertarian or conservative) is harmful to life on Earth. I mean, we've privatized prisons in this country, providing still more incentive to incarcerate people (as if we didn't already have various financial incentives along those lines.)

      • by tha_mink (518151) on Friday April 25, 2008 @09:02AM (#23197246)

        It should be abundantly clear at this point to all concerned that unchecked capitalism (whether libertarian or conservative) is harmful to life on Earth. I mean, we've privatized prisons in this country, providing still more incentive to incarcerate people (as if we didn't already have various financial incentives along those lines.)
        I'm not sure if you're kidding or not but I'll assume you're not. Are you trying to say that because there are privitized prisons, that a jury will be more likely to send a person to jail? Or that a prosecuter will think "Hrm...If I can get this guy to plead guilty, I'll be able to give "company X" another inmate and they might give me their Knicks tickets again."

        Really? Or that lawmakers will say "If I make this law, more people will go to jail, which means more money for my buddy's company which means, he'll have another one of those bitchin parties again this year" ? Do you really think that?

        Not trying to disagree with your unchecked captialism point but your proof stinks.
        • by thermostat42 (112272) on Friday April 25, 2008 @10:08AM (#23198002) Homepage
          Really? Or that lawmakers will say "If I make this law, more people will go to jail, which means more money for my buddy's company which means, he'll have another one of those bitchin parties again this year" ? Do you really think that?

          This seems like a fun game. Do you think its company's X strong moral fiber that will keep it from donating to PACs and paying lobbyists to argue for longer minimum sentences for crimes that pose relatively small dangers to society, when it will clearly benefit them financially? Do you think the lawmaker will say, "No I cannot accept your campaign contribution, because your positions are detrimental to my constituents"? Do you really think that?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcmonkey (96054)

          Really? Or that lawmakers will say "If I make this law, more people will go to jail, which means more money for my buddy's company which means, he'll have another one of those bitchin parties again this year" ? Do you really think that?

          Yes. (Except for the part about the party.)

          Do you think the number of speeding tickets issued is affected by the potential income through fines? Do you think the propensity for police to confiscate property is affected by the ability to then auction off that property?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by homer_ca (144738)
          It works like this: voting against any knee-jerk "tough on crime" law earns you nothing but attack ads from prison contracters and prison guard unions, or more likely their lobbyist proxies. Hey, I'm all for getting dangerous criminals off the streets, but prison sentencing has far surpassed any semblance of reasoned public policy to knee-jerk stage. Three strikes for non-violent felonies is stupid.
    • by mweather (1089505)
      Would you like an economic stimulus check to vote for party x?
  • Politicians love to say one thing and then pay for another.

    Voting is important, the security of the vote is important, unless that money can be used to buy votes elsewhere. It also becomes a great issue to underfund so when a politician loses they can blame voting machines for it because no one wants to admit they lost a popularity contest
    • Re:In other words (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sm62704 (957197) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:47AM (#23196510) Journal
      ...unless that money can be used to buy votes elsewhere

      The candidate doesn't matter; HE'S the one for sale. The scandal isn't the buying of votes, it's the buying of legislators. When you've donated ten million to the Democrat and another ten million to the Republican, it doesn't matter who loses, you win.
      • by dintech (998802)
        I wish the candidates were wise enough to see that the net result is 0. That's twenty million that could be better used and no-one seems to care.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Politicians love to say one thing and then pay for another.

      And voters want more expensive services but refuse to pay higher taxes to pay for them. Bad combo.
    • by MarkusQ (450076)

      It also becomes a great issue to underfund so when a politician loses they can blame voting machines for it because no one wants to admit they lost a popularity contest.

      You've got it backwards. No one really cares what the loser says.

      The point is, the winner won't have any incentive to fix the system that got them elected. Maybe it was an honest win, maybe it was rigged without their knowledge, or maybe they know damn well that they were elected because the machines are manipulable; in every case the

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:32AM (#23196384) Homepage
    I hate to play devil's advocate, but an ATM is an extremely complicated mechanical device. It doesn't shock me in the slightest that they're more expensive to produce than an electronic voting booth.

    Of course, their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Not to mention Diebold's ATM business != Diebold's voting machine business (now called Premier Election Systems). The voting machine business is a small sideline business for Diebold. Diebold makes LOTS and LOTS of stuff. For one, they are a U.S. government contractor that makes physical access control systems and all sorts of things. The ATM business is an offshoot of that.

      The voting booths have nothing to do their mainline business.

      This a bit like AM General admitting that their LSSVs aren't as robust
    • That is not even a question. Premier/Diebold is playing the most common trick there is: we can do better job but we need more money. Pony up some more so we can actually deliver what we promised to.

      Once they have high-tech for ATM, all they need to do is downgrade it into a workable trustful voting machine - they don't have to do much R&D for that! The whole China is doing it... so can they.
      • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by moosesocks (264553) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:27AM (#23196856) Homepage
        It's not that simple.

        I can't "downgrade" a 747 into a vending machine, even though the 747 is the more complex bit of machinery and has proven to be extremely reliable.

        They're two separate things entirely. Granted, yes, Diebold's experience with ATMs does make them appear more qualified to build voting machines, though there are still several important fundamental differences present.
        • 747 and a vending machine don't share a common technology, if they do, and you know how to make a 747, I really don't see a R&D problem in creating a vending machine. Note: I am not talking about manufacturing/designing problems! Just technological.

          In case of Diebold, they want money for making something "more secure" (which actually, is just "secure"), while they already have that technology. May be "downgrade" is not the right word, but still I don't see why they would need more money to do something
        • Re:So? (Score:5, Funny)

          by dpilot (134227) on Friday April 25, 2008 @10:53AM (#23198676) Homepage Journal
          > I can't "downgrade" a 747 into a vending machine

          Of course you can:
          1: Pull 747 up to gate.
          2: Allow cockpit crew to leave, keep flight attendants.
          3: Cancel engine maintenance contract, keep galley contracts.
          4: PROFIT!! (not really, but couldn't resist)

          To use:
          1: Walk down jetway into 747, take a seat.
          2: Push flight attendant button.
          3: Flight attendant wheels cart to your seat, prepared to dispense peanuts, mini-pretzels, or soda.
          4: Take you peanuts, mini-pretzels, or soda and exit the aircraft.

          I didn't say that a downgraded 747 made a very good, convenient, or profitable vending machine, but with a few organic parts, (the flight attendants and ground service for the galley) it can make one. Perhaps a parallel for Diebold voting machines.
      • by Chelloveck (14643)

        That is not even a question. Premier/Diebold is playing the most common trick there is: we can do better job but we need more money. Pony up some more so we can actually deliver what we promised to.

        Ah, but if only they'd reveal their source code and engineering drawings they'd get a few thousand people doing a thorough security audit gratis. But no, that would give away vital "trade secrets".

        I'm not even talking GPL here. Or any license to use the designs or code for anything other than auditing them

    • by RobBebop (947356)

      Of course, their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.

      I agree. It is bad design if the basic security measures taken for ATMs are not also implemented in voting machines.

      Diebold's expertise in serving the banks with ATM machines should translate nicely into serving the gov't with voting machines (much of the security, hardware, and software is similar between the two devices).

      Thus, the argument that it is a "cost issue" is bullcrap. The fact that the case in NJ proves that THE DAMNED THINGS DO NOT COUNT RELIABLY is further evidence that the issues with

      • by DrLang21 (900992)
        However, if Diebold did spend the extra money to make certain that they had a good secure and reliable design, would governments be willing to pay for it? Or would they instead go with the other manufactures who have less secure, but cheaper devices?
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrLang21 (900992) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:25AM (#23196836)

      their voting products do suck, although I don't think that cost has terribly much to do with it.
      Actually cost is a fair complaint by Diebold. Security is not cheap, but the direct customer (the government, not the citizens) demands a cheap product. And so it is only natural that they would select their voting machines with price being a primary concern equal to or greater than security. These electronic voting machines suck across the board and we can complain all we want about the manufacturers (certainly they have been shady with their tactics of preventing third party evaluation), but ultimately the blame rests on the government's shoulders for passing HAVA without realistic cost estimates and for not purchasing voting machines with quality and security the highest primary concern.
      • by ronanbear (924575)
        Banks are just as, if not more so, demanding about cost. The difference is that they actually need to have them work and Diebold wouldn't make any money selling grossly defective ATMs.

        For the money that Diebold were paid they didn't come close to implementing a secure system and it had very little to do with fundamental reasons that indicated that it couldn't be done for the specified cost. Good security is more expensive but bad design is most expensive.
      • As much as I hate and loathe Diebold, to be fair, they had the following scenario:

        A customer wants to pay a small amount of money for an insecure and poorly built product of theirs. Do they:

        A) Not sell them that product.
        or
        B) Sell them the product they are requesting.

        While I hate to be a Diebold apologist, this would NOT have happened if their customers (our various governments) had clearly and contractually stipulated what these machines were required to do. I haven't heard much in the way of Diebold ser
    • Also an ATM has to have a massive safe. I own an older, relatively small ATM with no base stand, and it weighs nearly 400 pounds. The combination safe in mine houses the money AND the main computer.
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:33AM (#23196388)
    This is just a travesty. That we put our democracy in the hands of for-profit, Republican-supporting companies like Diebold is beyond belief. The fact that they are required to make ATM machines better is a sign of how out of touch Americans are with our voting process. ATMs are more robust because people demand it. People DON'T (yet) demand the same amount of robustness in their voting machines because they are UNAWARE of how crappy the machines are. That really stems from our politicians who WANT to keep the sorry state of the voting machines secret.
    • by kenh (9056) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:52AM (#23196552) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunately, voting is a local exercise, despite the federal implications, and as such each jurisdiction has the freedom to implement voting in the manor they see fit. Of course, when we had that little mis-adventure in FL a few years ago, paper was deemed "unacceptable", so the federal government decided to throw lots of money around to help everyone buy *whatever* electronic voting machine they wanted, then when the local politicians made bad decisions (based on ignorance, greed, corrupt vendors or a combination of all three) the politicans are now stepping back in and saying that the electronic voting process is no good, and we need to go back to paper...

      A fundamental change is needed, one that will either have the states ceding power tot he federal government to develop "the one true" voting machine used in all districts *or* we get off this technology merry-go-round and use paper ballots - as a bonus it will give the losing politicans more time to round-up lawyers to challenge their loss...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by maxume (22995)
        Paper scan voting pretty much solves all of the problems, at reasonable cost. The interface is one that people are used to(paper that is), there is a paper trail, the machines are well understood.

        Hopefully people manage to remember the ongoing debacle in New Jersey for at least an election cycle or two.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        If it's a federal election, voting for a federal office, then there should be federal rules as to how the voting is conducted. In Canada, for federal elections, voting is done exactly the same across the entire country. You don't get extra things put on the ballots, because they figured, since everybody is voting anyway, they might as well vote on 1000 different things. Since we have a parliamentary system, the names on the ballots for different ridings, but that's the only thing that is different. The b
        • There are 51 electoral races in the country, since each state (and the District of Columbia) choose to hold elections for electors instead of the state legislatures choosing them. However, those are state races, not Federal ones. Senators, since directly elected, are statewide elected races, but other than the Constitution requiring them to be directly elected, didn't change them from state selected officals to Federal ones. That's why, in a vacancy, the Governor appoints the replacement subject to that
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      ATMs are more robust because bankers demand it.

      There, fixed that for you.
    • by aqui (472334) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:03AM (#23196640)
      Security depends both on the voting / counting process and on the technology (this is true for paper ballots as well). The problem is when the technology can easily be changed in a hidden way that is unverifiable by elections officials.

      A simple machine, that has been tested and verify can be sealed with stickers with signatures of election officials.

      A machine (think diabold) with all kinds of inputs (think keyboard plugs) and complexity (think OS, DB etc...) cannot be easily sealed and verified by election officials.

      I found two interesting articles about India's EVM

      The two things I found interesting:
      1) EVM cost = $230 (hard to tamper with, and relies on election officials to keep secure)

      2) Diebold cost = $3300 (easier to tamper with, and relies on election officials to keep secure)

      This points out two things: voting systems don't have to be complicated or expensive to work well, and that security depends both on the machine and the voting process.

      Just like with paper ballots the election officials need to ensure security of the voting and counting process.

      In Canada we have some electronic voting at the municipal level in some cities (mostly optical scan machines).

      A comparison of EVM and Diebold
      http://techaos.blogspot.com/2004/05/indian-evm-compared-with-diebold.html [blogspot.com]

      Wikipedia
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Voting_Machines [wikipedia.org]

      The issue is not about cost. The issue is crappy design, and politics in the selection of voting machine vendors.

  • by ciaohound (118419) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:33AM (#23196392)
    Riggall? That's rich. Yeah, mod me offtopic, I just Felten urge to post this.
  • Everyone wants bad ass, but no one wants to pay the cost of bad assery.
  • ATMs are very secure because if just one breaks, it can mean the loss of thousands of dollars. If an exploit is made public, it can easily mean significantly more money lost prior to it being fixed (imagine a group of blackhats using an exploit to empty out a group of ATMs all at the same time one night).

    That being said, there's no reason that over time a voting system cannot have a similar level of security and accuracy. Open code review and structure review of the devices will allow security experts to
  • The spokesperson of (ex-)Diebold is called Riggall! Maybe they just want to make it clear to their 'customers' that even though they changed their name their complex vote "counting" algorithm is as good as ever..
  • Cost isn't the issue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by athloi (1075845) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:43AM (#23196478) Homepage Journal
    As usual, cost isn't the question.

    It's science -- bad science -- of two types:

    1. Bad application of technology, including massive security holes.
    2. Bad management science, leading to sloppy security and confused product design.

    An ATM should be more expensive than a voting machine; the ATM has to dispense cash and be used 24-7 to do so.

    A voting machine however should be secure, have an audit trail, and a clear interface so the average person can understand what they're voting for.
    • by Shambly (1075137) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:51AM (#23196550)
      The problem isn't that an average person can understand what they're voting for, it's that you have to be clear to a really dumb person, because they can vote too. If your machine is too complicated for half the people you don't have a fair election.
    • by jimicus (737525) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:59AM (#23196598)

      As usual, cost isn't the question.

      It's science -- bad science -- of two types:

      1. Bad application of technology, including massive security holes.
      2. Bad management science, leading to sloppy security and confused product design.
      I disagree.

      Engineering is all about making compromises - the old adage "good, fast, cheap, pick two" holds true today just as much as it always did, even if the three options in the list change occasionally.

      In this case, I'd argue that the three options are "Simple, reliable, cheap, pick two".

      Simple - any fool can use it, it's really not complicated.
      Reliable - Verifiably correct, very hard to mess around with without it being immediately obvious.
      Cheap - Pretty self-explanatory.
      • by tilandal (1004811)
        I adhere by the standard that if you are too dumb to figure out how to vote then your vote shouldn't be counted in the first place. Give me reliable and cheap.
        • by Bodrius (191265)
          Putting aside the ethical and democratic implications...

          The problem is not that your votes aren't counted if you're "too dumb to figure it out". The problem is they can be MIS-counted, affecting the reliability of an election.

          Unless you want to make it a reliable intelligence test + analysis + voting machine... in which case I think you'll lose the 'cheap' part.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        How does paper voting counted by humans with observers from multiple parties watching the election and the counting process not meet those criteria?
        • Technology is beneficial at times. This is not one of them. My precinct has never had trouble with optical scanning ballots (fill in the circle with a little marker, feed it into the machine). In terms of speed of counting, security and cost, these voting machines are inferior to techniques as simple as the ones that graded your history test in 8th grade.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Cheap is relative in that menu. The simple and reliable voting machine indeed costs more than the reliable and cheap or simple and cheap one, but none of those need cost as much as an ATM given an appropriate design.

      • by zx75 (304335)
        Yeah, pity they only decided to pick one.
  • Yeah, right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:48AM (#23196524)
    'Cause election jurisdictions can afford to buy entire systems they have to throw away once they're discovered to be inadequate.
  • Priorities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Friday April 25, 2008 @07:50AM (#23196534) Homepage
    No institution other than one that can compel funding and compliance could ever operate with the sort of gross incompetence and lack of priorities that government frequently has. A few obvious examples:

    1) The Bush Administration has $500B to spend on prescription pills for the elderly, but cannot find $100M to fund 10,000 new border patrol agents on the southern border.

    2) New Orleans had plenty of money to waste on welfare programs and such, but didn't have any money to spend on getting its own fixes for the levies, even if they were only gradual repair contracts.

    3) All of the pork barrel spending that goes on in Congress.

    4) The congressional hearings over steroid use in professional sports. I don't agree that it is the state's business at all, but isn't this what we have the DEA for?

    5) Doing things like setting up honeypots to catch people who might have a passing interest in child porn when there are still people getting away with the actual production of the same in U.S. territory, child molesters and Americans flying overseas to do the same.

    6) Passing and enforcing drug laws when there isn't even enough room due to the War on Drugs to guarantee that someone who commits 1st degree murder will get life in prison. Same thing for how the WoD has made it much easier to argue that the system just cannot handle the burden of locking up dangerous criminals permanently.
  • And shoddy/insecure design... As something they can't afford to do without?

    I call BS. The customer has an expectation of the manufacturer doing a good job of designing their devices and not selling defective product lines: there would be no sale if the manufacturer were honest and told the product was not robust. There can be no excuse for letting a generic key open the device, when individualized locks are easily purchased.

    The customer would keep going until they found a vendor that told them the

  • If it's too expensive to make a secure electronic voting machine, then maybe that's the wrong solution? Nah, let's just make an insecure one that's cheap enough... gotta love that logic!
  • by bromoseltzer (23292) on Friday April 25, 2008 @08:08AM (#23196690) Homepage Journal
    The obvious solution. Banks reload their ATM software for voting on election day. The candidates can buy your votes all the more easily -- cash comes out of the slot.
  • Well, of course! Money always seems to be more important than democracy so it's not a big surprise where the companies like Diebold put their best engineering effort.

  • Although an ATM does indeed demand more hardware and more engineering due to the particular task that it intends to fulfill (dispense the exact amount of money, continually exchange information with a central server, work 24/7, exposed to the elements, resist vandalism, etc...) that is absolutely no excuse for it to be more robust than a simple, straight to the point vote counting machine. In fact, it proves the exact opposite. An ATM has multiple subsystems which must work perfectly 24/7 and must be flawle
  • there is a simple major reason why I trust them more. They have a paper trail.
    I can check with the bank statement.
  • I don't know what it's like in the USA, but in Europe many shops have a small hand-held devices that connect to banks via phone to do card transactions. They are both very secure and relatively cheap. The excuse that a properly secure device would be too expensive is just rubbish.
     
  • There's already a lot of ATMs. Why couldn't a voting machine function be added to existing ATMs? People could identify themselves by swiping a card (like you do for getting boarding passes on an airplane). You could vote anywhere, anytime, not just in your precinct on a specific day. Hell, they'd even have paper receipts!

    Obviously, some people are not going to want to or be able to identify themselves with a swipe card. That doesn't exclude the election commission from operating centrally located polli
  • Why is this news? ATMs don't have a reputation for being insecure devices, and considering the amount of money they handle on a regular basis there is a strong incentive to break into them. Further, any single ATM is in service every day out of the year, whereas voting machines are in service once or twice a year.

    Diebold's voting machines have a deservedly bad reputation for bad security as well as major screwups (not necessarily security-related) but I don't recall anyone claiming they were built to be as
  • "Riggall" You can't make this shit up.
  • by sjames (1099) on Friday April 25, 2008 @09:12AM (#23197358) Homepage

    Voting machines most certainly do NOT have to cost as much as an ATM to be appropriatly secure!

    An ATM must be tamper proof. That implies heavy steel construction all around. It has to be larger because it has to hold a store of cash. That sort of construction is where bug costs come in. They are generally unattended for most of the day and they contain cash!

    A voting machine just has to be tamper evident. Heavy ABS plastic construction (for durability) with unique keys would be adequate there. They are generally either secured away or attended by election officials. They contain nothing all that valuable to someone who would break in. (the only value to be had requires breaking in without leaving visible evidence) Tamper evident design is quite sufficient.

    The card readers on those things are just plain excessive. You'll note when you push the card in, there's a rather solid clunk as it locks in. That speaks of a heavy mechanism with an oversized solinoid and spring. That in turn implies heavy relays and a big power supply. A mechanism more like the floppy drives on an old Mac would have been more appropriate to the problem and considerably cheaper.

    Those savings could have gone towards uniquely keyed locks, better software, and perhaps a POS style receipt printer.

  • by gtx (204552)
    ATMs are typically full of cash and left completely unsupervised, frequently outdoors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Voting machines are generally used for one day a year, indoors, surrounded by people, and are not full of a delicious currency filling.

    I'm not saying security shouldn't be a priority, I'm just saying that you have to plan security practically around each application.

    -c

  • by qazwart (261667) on Friday April 25, 2008 @09:57AM (#23197856) Homepage
    It doesn't surprise me that voting machines are not built as well as ATMs. ATMs are filled with thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. It would be a rich target for all potential thieves. The voting machine electronics must be protected from all sorts of assaults. Voting machines only contain vote totals, so fewer people would be after them. After all, if you smash an ATM, you still get the money. You smash a voting machine, and you simply lose the votes.

    The problem is we're stuck on machines vs. voting procedures. New York and New Jersey had voting machines that did not produce a paper trail for almost 100 years, and this was by design. The voting fraud problem in the Northeast was ballot stuffing. Voting machines, by eliminating paper ballots were designed to eliminate this type of voter fraud. The voting machines were designed around voting procedures. A voter had to register before hand. They had to sign in. Their signature was compared to their signature on their original application. The voter was handed a ticket. They handed that to a poll worker who would place the ticket in the voting machine, and pull a big lever which unlocked the machine. The voter would enter the machine, pull another lever to close the curtains and vote. When they finished, they pulled the lever to open the curtains. This cast the ballot and locked the machine. Poll watchers oversaw the whole process.

    This machine/procedure combination eliminated ballot stuffing. The voter could only vote a single time before the machine locked up. The poll worker couldn't unlock the machine without the poll watchers noticing. Voter counts were taken from the machine totals, the tickets on the machines, and the sign in list. Since the voting machines were purely mechanical, they were trusted by all parties. All parties could watch the machines being setup and make sure there were no problems. Poll watchers would run tests before the polls opened to verify the machines. This didn't kill the political machines which simply switched tactics, and it didn't entirely eliminate voting fraud, but it certainly helped.

    What we need to do is set a procedure up to ensure that elections are fair. Ballots must be secured and watched over by all parties. In Zimbabwe, they counted the votes locally at the polls and posted the results at each poll. This prevents the ruling party from manipulating the ballots. You could go from poll to poll, and add up the election results yourself. We also must ensure that each voter votes only once, and that each voter's vote is totaled as they intended. That was the issue in Florida with the punch card system.

    So, we need to think beyond the "technology" aspect of the voting. It isn't paper ballots are simply better. It's about ensuring that we have confidence in the tabulation of the votes and whether it truly reflects the view of the populous. So, think of how you'd secure the paper ballots, how they would be counted. Who would oversee the procedure? How would the ballot boxes be protected from additional votes being added? How do we ensure that voters only vote once and not sneak in additional ballots? How do we verify the ballots? How can we ensure the entire procedure is fair?

    The problem with the current Diabold style voting machines is that they are mystery boxes and we cannot tell if they tabulate the vote fairly. We would have to ensure the firmware, the software, and hardware has not been tampered with. A paper trail can help since paper is easier to verify. But, paper is easy to duplicate, toss, and manipulate which is why the Northeast went to the mechanical paperless machines to begin with.

    Unless you think of the entire voting process, and ensure the voting process is easy to verify, it doesn't matter how voters cast their ballots.
  • I work for a bank, and we get audited by both the Feds and the state every two years. Usually they alternate years, so we are either getting ready for an audit, getting audited, or responding to an audit.

    There's nothing like having someone over your shoulder saying things like:
    "How would this look if I had to explain this to an auditor?"
    "If the auditor were to ask about this, what would I say?"

    Banks will pay the extra money to secure an ATM because if we don't, we get screwed. Our board of directors finds
  • by PPH (736903) on Friday April 25, 2008 @12:24PM (#23199914)

    ATMs are the target of physical attacks far more often than voting machines are. ATMs are installed in unmonitored locations. Voting machines are not. The object of an attack on an ATM is to get the money out. Leaving evidence of damage behind isn't an issue with an ATM. OTOH, voting machines can be secured with simple tamper seals.

    When was the last time you saw a surveillance video of a couple of yahoos chaining a voting machine to the back bumper of a pickup truck and dragging it away?

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

Working...