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Topic: #voting-machines

Remote Access to Election-Management Systems


But of course. It's not a bug — it's a feature.

“Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States”
Kim Zetter, Motherboard, July 17, 2018

The nation's top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.

In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had “provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.

The statement contradicts what the company told me and fact checkers for a story I wrote for the New York Times in February. At that time, a spokesperson said ES&S had never installed pcAnywhere on any election system it sold. …

ES&S customers who had pcAnywhere installed also had modems on their election-management systems so ES&S technicians could dial into the systems and use the software to troubleshoot, thereby creating a potential point of entry for hackers as well.

In May 2006 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, ES&S technicians used the pcAnywhere software installed on that county's election-management system for hours trying to reconcile vote discrepancies in a local election, according to a report filed at the time. And in a contract with Michigan, which covered 2006 to 2009, ES&S discussed its use of pcAnywhere and modems for this purpose. …

In 2006, the same period when ES&S says it was still installing pcAnywhere on election systems, hackers stole the source code for the pcAnywhere software …

Security researchers discovered a critical vulnerability in pcAnywhere that would allow an attacker to seize control of a system that had the software installed on it, without needing to authenticate themselves to the system with a password. And other researchers with the security firm Rapid7 scanned the internet for any computers that were online and had pcAnywhere installed on them and found nearly 150,000 were configured in a way that would allow direct access to them. …

In its letter to Wyden, ES&S defended its installation of pcAnywhere, saying that during the time it installed the software on customer machines prior to 2006, this was “considered an accepted practice by numerous technology companies, including other voting system manufacturers.”

That's the problem, all right. My guess is that installing remote-access backdoors is still a universal practice among makers of proprietary election-management devices, though perhaps “accepted” is no longer the right word for it. There's an obvious need for remote access in this day and age: Without it, how would the managers of elections be able to determine their outcomes?

#voting-machines #backdoors #proprietary-code

Paper Ballots and Voter-Registration Lists


The security of computer systems, particularly those used in voting machines, is so inadequate that it would be prudent to switch over to paper ballots and paper voter-registration lists.

“American Elections Are Too Easy to Hack. We Must Take Action Now”
Bruce Schneier, The Guardian, April 18, 2018

For some reason, Schneier doesn't argue for switching over to paper for the process of collating, summing, and tabulating election results, although most of his observations about the need for an independently auditable paper trail apply to those steps in the election process as well.

#elections #voting-machines #paper-trails

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John David Stone (

created June 1, 2014 · last revised December 10, 2018