Even a remote chance?
By Pokey Anderson
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jan 7, 2005, 20:39
Imagine sitting in your favorite easy chair with a
remote control, and being able to just push EJECT and get George Bush out of
office. Or, let's say you're on your laptop, and you can dial up a regime
"Hmm," you say, "I'm feeling like blue
today. Blue is a nice color. I think I'd rather have Kerry for president."
Let's say you're up late, it's November 2, you see that Kerry is losing in
Ohio, and you say, "the HELL with that!" So, with your laptop, you
dial into the tabulator for, let's just say, 41 of 88 counties in Ohio. And,
you switch 14 votes per precinct from Bush to Kerry. Voila! Kerry wins.
Could that happen?
Or, um, the other way around -- Kerry is winning, and
someone dials in and changes a dozen or so votes in each of roughly half the
precincts in Ohio, and VOILA, Bush wins Ohio. (A flip of a dozen votes in 5,000
precincts would result in a net change of 120,000 votes in Ohio, more than the
current margin separating the two candidates.)
Remote control of elections? Science fiction, right?
Start playing the Twilight Zone music? Not exactly.
Let's look at a test that was done for the State of
Maryland on the Diebold equipment. The testers used actual Diebold election
equipment and, after a week's study, attempted to hack and manipulate it. The
newspaper report said they were nearly "giddy" with their success.
One guy picked the locks protecting the internal
printers and memory cards. Another figured out how to vote more than once -- and
get away with it. Still another launched a dial-up attack, using his modem to
slither through an electronic hole in the State Board of Elections software.
The team was able to remotely upload, download, and execute files with full
system administrator privileges. Results could be modified at will, including
changing votes from precincts.
"My guess is we've only scratched the surface,"
said Michael A. Wertheimer, who spent 21 years as a cryptologic mathematician
at the National Security Agency. -- "Md. computer testers cast a vote:
Election boxes easy to mess with," by Stephanie Desmon, Sun Staff
(Maryland), January 30, 2004 AND the RABA TECHNOLOGIES REPORT on Diebold
AccuVote-TS Voting System, January 20, 2004
As a bonus, the test hack team was able to change votes
and exit the system without a trace of their visit. Slick!
The State of Maryland head of elections read the
report, and promptly issued a press release. I couldn't make this stuff up;
here is what Linda Lamone said, "To this date, there has never been an
election compromised. The findings in the SAIC and RABA reports both confirm
the accuracy and security of Maryland's voting system and procedures as they
exist today." And, Maryland
bought the Diebold electronic voting machines.
But Diebold only counts votes in two of Ohio's
counties. Most Ohio counties are counted by ES&S or Triad.
Let's look at Triad. Triad is a tiny, family-owned
operation based in Xenia, Ohio. Triad runs the tabulation software that counts
41 of Ohio's 88 counties. Standard punch card readers read the ballots, then
the Triad software kicks in to tabulate the counties. Triad also runs voter
registration.in 53 Ohio counties.
After the Nov. 2 election and before the recount in
Ohio demanded by the Green and Libertarian parties, Triad made some changes,
adjustments, or reprogramming -- whatever you want to call it.
Triad itself says it did this to all its 41 counties.
"Prior to recount, when the SOS
announced the recounts should commence, all counties get guidelines, what's
included on reports. All reports that are produced for this recount only show
the presidential race. In order for the machine to show that, there has to be a
change made to tabulation reporting, tell the machine only to report the
presidential totals. We wanted to make sure -- not just in Hocking, in all our
counties. We helped them prepare the
recount to make sure, counties had set up properly . . . The computer system?
Has a report file that shows all of the offices and issued that are programmed.
We had to make a change for the report file to show that it would only display
the presidential race." -- December 2004 interview with Triad President
Brett Rapp and Triad Vice President Dwayne Rapp, by Evan Davis and Terri
Green Party observers add some information for two
Fulton County, Ohio: "The Director for Fulton told
me that Triad is able to reprogram the computer to count only the Presidential
ballots by remote dial-up." -- 2004 Ballot Recount: Observer Report
Cobb - LaMarche Ballot Recount Reports by County, December
19, 2004: Report by Green Party County Coordinator.
Van Wert County, Ohio: "When asked if Triad had
serviced the machine, the deputy director and a board member stated that they
had serviced the machine over the phone via modem on December 9th." -- 2004
Ballot Recount: Observer Report, December
21, 2004: Report by Green Party Observer.
Okay, let's see what one of Triad's vice presidents has
been working on. Cheryl Bellucci, a VP at Triad, posted memos online seeking
I have my connection set up
in my Project, but how do I access the Remote View?
From: Cheryl Bellucci
Date: Tue 01/25/2000 at 08:44 AM
Can anyone point me to a
good ODBC [Open Database Connectivity] example? Specifically, I want to
retrieve data from an Access database through VFP6.0.
From: Cheryl Bellucci
Date: Friday 21 Jan 2000 at 14:03 PST
I have a VFP6 [Visual Fox
Pro 6] application that reads/updates
a series of Access MDBs through Remote Views stored in DBCs [Database
From: Cheryl Bellucci
Xenia, United States
Version: Visual FoxPro 6
Date: March 18, 2004
So, Triad made changes to the vote counting software
for its counties (nearly half the counties in Ohio) in preparation for the
recount. Observers in two counties report that they were told Triad made the
changes remotely, by modem. A Triad VP uses an application that "reads/updates"
databases through "remote views." The database software appears to be
Microsoft Access, which is well-known for its lack of security features.
But don't worry, Triad says no one should worry about
technicians changing anything in the software for elections, because the tech
will leave a note inside the computer as to what was done.
That's sounds a little like David Beirne, public
relations officer for the county clerk for one of the nation's biggest
counties, Harris County, Texas. At a meeting of the local chapter of the League
of Women Voters, Beirne was cornered by skeptical citizens. The citizens said
they weren't satisfied with "faith-based" elections or paperless
electronic voting; they wanted verifiability and authentic recountability. "Well.
It's always been faith-based elections," Beirne sniffed.
This sort of remote, unsupervised connection greatly
concerns Ellen Theisen, co-founder of VotersUnite.org
and a computer programmer for over 20 years: "People don't understand
how much you can do with software, computers, connectivity -- it's not
controllable." Her group campaigned for paper ballots as an
emergency measure to try to prevent a non-verifiable election in November.
So, did someone sit back with a laptop and a modem and
make remote changes to election computers in Ohio, before the election, during
the election, before the recount, or during the recount? Did they access
tabulators run by Triad? Diebold? ES&S? Was it an insider? An outsider? Or
were the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink obstacles thrown at the Ohio voters
enough to throw the election without any remote electronic piracy?
Did we have a mock election?
It's only control of the most powerful country on the
planet. Would someone really try to steal that? What if it was easy,
remote, and there was almost no likelihood of discovery or punishment?
Do you think we should find out?
Pokey Anderson is an investigative journalist who helped research "Power
Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron," by Mimi Swartz with
Sherron Watkins. She co-hosts Sunday Monitor, a weekly news and analysis
program on KPFT-Pacifica Radio in Houston. She may be reached at Pokey@kpft.org.
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