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German activists move to block e-voting

Out of the Chaos Computer Club, calls for dropping the computers

By Jeremy Kirk
January 8, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A German computer club has asked a court to grant an injunction that would stop the use of electronic voting machines in state elections scheduled for later this month.

The Chaos Computer Club (CCC), founded in 1981, contends the government doesn't have the technical knowledge to ensure that the e-voting machines' software or hardware hasn't been manipulated, according to Frank Rieger, spokesman. The club supports the use of paper ballots.

Eight cities and districts in the German state of Hesse are planning to use e-voting machines made by Nederlandsche Apparatenfabriek (Nedap) and software developer Groenendaal in the election on Jan. 27.

In response to complaints against use of the machines, the Ministry of the Interior for the state of Hesse mandated that the cities and districts using the machines conduct tests prior to the election, Rieger said.

But CCC argues that a sophisticated hacker would be able to defeat a test, providing a reliable result at that time but still manipulate the real election results, Rieger said.

No court date to hear the injunction has been scheduled yet. "We expect a decision will be made before the election," Rieger said.

Another case, filed in early 2007, is pending before Germany's Constitutional Court over the use of e-voting machines, Rieger said. The outcome of that case could influence Germany's future use of such machines.

Nedap machines have been used in elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, but not without controversy. In all of the countries, activists groups moved to stop the use of the machines due to security concerns.

Some of those concerns arose from a paper written in 2006 by Dutch researchers. The paper argued that only brief access to a machine was necessary to gain undetectable control over election results. The researchers also found radio signals emitted by a Nedap model could be used to eavesdrop and find out how a person voted.

Other flaws included the fact that the same key, which could be purchased commercially for about $1.50, opened 8,000 or so of the machines.

Another activist group hacked a Nedap machine live on Dutch television just prior to parliamentary elections there in November 2006.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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