Serve was designed as an experiment to test the feasibility of Internet voting as a way to make it easier for the 6 million overseas civilians and military personnel. A limited pilot available to 100,000 voters was planned for the November general election.
Now, Defense says there are too many security questions to take the risk. "We will continue to investigate technologies to cast ballots over the Internet," a spokeswoman says, but an actual Internet election will only take place "if it can be shown that the integrity of the election can be ensured."
That's exactly what a team of computer scientists said was not possible with current technology. In the 34-page report, made available in mid-January, the researchers warn that Serve is vulnerable to the kinds of attacks that are launched against business-technology systems every day, including insider abuse, denial-of-service attacks, spoofing, and virus attacks aimed at the PCs of Internet voters. They also warn of automated vote buying.
One of the primary flaws, the researchers say, is that Serve provides no paper trail to confirm final tallies should it be attacked, or to even refute claims that the system was compromised.
"The vulnerabilities we describe cannot be fixed by design or bug fixes to Serve," the report states. "These vulnerabilities are fundamental in the architecture of the Internet and of the PC hardware and software that is ubiquitous today."