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7/24/2003
05:17 PM
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Security Of E-Voting Systems Seriously Questioned

Computer researchers claim to have found 'critical flaws' in software used for U.S. electronic voting.

Three computer researchers from the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, with help from a computer scientist at Rice University, say they've uncovered vulnerabilities in the software purportedly used by Diebold Election Systems. As a result, one person can cast multiple votes, elections can be delayed, the anonymity of voters can be breached, and cast votes can be modified or even deleted, the researchers say.

However, the code analyzed by the researchers could be up to a year old. The code included modifications through 2002, the researchers said in a statement. The code they analyzed was discovered on a publicly accessible Diebold Web site in January. A spokesperson for Diebold Election systems was not immediately available for comment on the findings.

According to information from Diebold's Web site, more than 32,000 Diebold voting systems were used in general elections in November 2002. Earlier this week, the company said it had closed a $56.6 million contract with Maryland for 11,000 Diebold touch-screen voting systems.

Avi Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute, said in a statement that a 15-year-old computer enthusiast could make counterfeit smart cards that the system would accept as legitimate.

"A few months ago we didn't know what was going on inside these machines because no one would tell us," says David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University. Dill says he hopes the research will shed light on potential security problems with electronic voting. "There are election officials that just don't want to hear about the potential security problems. They won't listen."

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