Diebold/Premier 'fesses lost OH votes

In Monday's IT Blogwatch, we discover that Ohio's voting machine irregularities aren't McAfee's fault after all. Not to mention misspelled tattoos...

Grant Gross gets going:

A major electronic voting system vendor has changed its story in an attempt to explain how its machines dropped hundreds of votes in Ohio's March primary elections, saying it was a programming error, not the fault of antivirus software.

E-voting machines from Premier Election Solutions Inc., formerly called Diebold Election Systems, dropped hundreds of votes in 11 Ohio counties during the primary election, as the machine's memory cards uploaded to vote-counting servers.

Diebold logo
Premier originally blamed conflicts caused by antivirus software from McAfee Inc., but the company this week said a logic error in the machines' GEMS source code was responsible for the problem.


The antivirus software could trigger the error, but it wasn't the underlying problem, said Premier spokesman Chris Riggall. Premier's earlier analysis "was not complete" ... The fixed version of the software won't be certified by federal elections officials before November's election.

Oh, hi, Mark Niquette: [You're fired -Ed.]

The maker of touch-screen voting machines used in half of Ohio's counties has admitted that its own programming error is to blame for votes being dropped in some counties.


Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner ... is suing to recover the millions of taxpayer dollars spent to buy Premier touch-screens after she said an investigation this year showed that votes in at least 11 counties had been dropped in recent elections.


Critics of Premier and touch-screen voting in general have long argued that the systems aren't secure and can't be trusted ... But Premier spokesman Chris Riggall ... stressed that the systems are secure in conjunction with other election safeguards in place.

Matt Buchanan sits on the fence:

The maker of the evil, wonky voting machines in Ohio that are going to be used for the election despite the fact they're broken has admitted that the machines do in fact lose votes (before, Premier, aka Diebold, said it was "user error"). It gets better! They can't be fixed before election day. Hey, it's not like anyone asked for your opinion anyway. Okay maybe they did, but that's beside the point.

wok3 was busy chuckling:

We all remember some years back, how people were saying that the electronic voting machines were “losing” votes, and how paranoid that sounded. It seemed like sour grapes ... [But] this is precisely what was happening. Although Diebold had suggested that anti-virus software added to machines in Ohio was the main cause of the problem in 2004, it now turns out that the problem was in Deibold’s own programming code, and they now admit that the logic error had been a part of their machines for 10 years.

So a simple computer with but one task had an error in it’s code that took a decade to locate. Add to this little discovery that the votes most likely to be dropped are from larger voter jurisdictions, as they upload their respective memory cards to be tallied, and presto-magicko, a Democratic Republic is more of a sham that it already was ... With the elections coming up, one thing is sure. Votes will be cast, and not counted, and while the fault may technically lie with a software “glitch,” the real fault is ours for allowing a system that has proved unreliable to be used again.

And while whoever wins will simply call the others sore losers, the sad fact is that we have all lost. And just think, this system is currently used in 34 states.

John Paczkowski smells blood in the water:

Remember, Premier (Diebold) is the company that designed its widely criticized electronic voting systems in such a way that the the locks protecting them from tampering can be picked open with a hotel minibar key. The company posted a detailed photograph of its authorized key, showing size, shape, and cut pattern, on its online store. It’s the company whose e-voting machines once relied on hard-coded security passwords like “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8? and “11111.” It’s the company that evaded election transparency laws in North Carolina. It’s the company that can’t seem to safeguard its source code. And it’s the company that modified its machines without notifying election officials. Twice.

Mike Masnick, too:

For nearly half a decade Diebold has always responded in the identical way to every single report of a problem or security vulnerability with its e-voting machines: attacking those who pointed out the problem and claiming it really wasn't a problem at all. This has happened time and time again.


It should also make us question Premier/Diebold's longstanding claim that independent outsiders should not be allowed to inspect its machines for problems. Of course, Diebold execs are already downplaying all of this, claiming that they were "confident" that this hadn't actually impacted any elections, though they offer no proof of that. The company's president admits he's "distressed" that they were wrong in their previous analysis, but he fails to explain why the company is so against letting outsiders inspect the machines to avoid such flaws.

InvisblePinkUnicorn injects this:

Don't blame me, I voted for a';DROP TABLE users; SELECT * FROM data WHERE name LIKE '%.

And finally...

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 22 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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