All Internet voting is insecure: report

Ian Grigg iang at
Fri Jan 23 14:05:10 EST 2004

All Internet voting is insecure: report
Posted: 23/01/2004 at 11:37 GMT
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Online voting is fundamentally insecure due to the architecture of the
Internet, according to leading cyber-security experts.

Using a voting system based upon the Internet poses a "serious and
unacceptable risk" for election fraud and is not secure enough for
something as serious as the election of government officials, according to
the four members of the Security Peer Review Group, an advisory group
formed by the US Department of Defense to evaluate a new on-line voting

The review group's members, and the authors of the damning report, include
David Wagner, Avi Rubin and David Jefferson from the University of
California, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University and the Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory, respectively, and Barbara Simons, a computer
scientist and technology policy consultant.

The federally-funded Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment
(SERVE) system is currently slated for use in the US in this year's
primary and general elections. It will allow eligible voters to register
to vote at home and then to vote via the Internet from anywhere in the
world. The first tryout of SERVE is early in February for South Carolina's
presidential primary and its eventual goal is to provide voting services
to all eligible US citizens overseas and to US military personnel and
their dependents, a population estimated at six million.

After studying the prototype system the four researchers said that from
anywhere in the world a hacker could disrupt an election or influence its
outcome by employing any of several common types of cyber-attacks.
"Attacks could occur on a large scale and could be launched by anyone from
a disaffected lone individual to a well-financed enemy agency outside the
reach of US law," state the three computer science professors and a former
IBM researcher in the report.

A denial-of-service attack would delay or prevent a voter from casting a
ballot through a Web site. A "man in the middle" or "spoofing" attack
would involve the insertion of a phoney 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.

A third type of attack involves the use 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, according to the report.

While acknowledging the difficulties facing absentee voters, the authors
of the security analysis conclude that Internet voting presents far too
many opportunities fo

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