Monday, May 18, 2009

Poll Computerization In 2010 - Courting A Disaster

The 11.4 Billion Pesos Poll Computerization Project is definitely shrouded with suspicions as well as clouded with questions. The uncanny haste with which Philippine authorities are implementing the project smacks of another large scale "Garci" election fraud in the making. (The amount of 11.4 billion pesos is the biggest budget for an IT project ever undertaken in the entire IT history of the Philippines. Why the important players like computer IT companies, communications companies, software houses, government IT agencies, the academe, and local computer organizations, were not consulted in the design of this all important IT project is totally questionable. On top of this, no IT person was appointed to the Comelec at this time when the Poll Body needed an IT expert among its commissioners.)

Adding up to the already messy outlook, an opposition senator (a staunch enemy of the poll computerization project), in an attempt to stop the computerization, mindlessly filed a bill in the senate offering huge monetary rewards to any hacker who can successfully hack the Poll body's computerized system. In childish reaction to the senator's move, the head of the poll body took the opportunity to do his own grandstanding antics and declared they are willing to bet that no hacker will be able to penetrate the electoral system. He claims he has invited and talked to some Singapore based hackers and invited them to try to hack the poll body's network.  Unknowingly, both the senator and the COMELEC head have delivered the 2010 Philippine Elections into the vultures' nest. They have both ignorantly courted disaster for the country on the May, 2010 elections. Both personality do not realize they are now stirring a hornet's nest!

While I share the senator's sentiment in going up against the poll body's computerization project at this time, I feel his grandstanding antics is uncalled for, and only invites more trouble - trouble that can come from every nook and cranny of the blogosphere where hackers of varying degrees of skills and abilities,equipped with more sophisticated gadgets lie in waiting for such a chance, ready to network with each other to do a monumental hack of the 2010 Philippine elections -  if only to make their presence felt (even without monetary considerations!)

On the other hand, the tech ignorant head of the local poll body (COMELEC), unaware of what hackers can really do, and seemingly ignorant of the power and the damage that a network of hackers can unleash, has stupidly stood up against the senator's pronouncements and made his own dare to hackers all over the globe to give their poll system a try!

Sadly, both have courted disaster for the country come May, 2010! Sadly, both have unknowingly been used to camouflage where the real risk of poll computerization lies.

The real risk of poll computerization lies from within the poll body itself!

It has been shown so many times all over the globe that votes can be stolen in automated machines using a simple malware script that is only 100 lines long, and which can be written even by budding hackers. It has been demonstrated that such a program can be written on a memory card and will take a mere 10 seconds to get it installed on a single machine where after which it starts infecting all the other machines in the network - hardly, if not totally undetectable!  Worst, it has been proven that such a set up have been used by insiders in the 2004 U.S. presidential elections. Videos of how to hack computerized polls are aplenty at You Tube! I am posting the more relevant videos for reference here.

Even with the growing vigilance against election fraud in the country, stealing votes on election day does not seem to wane. And, with the impending poll computerization, stealing votes will even be easier and almost undetectable! There is no way poll watchers and volunteers against electoral fraud and other election watchdogs will ever know votes have been stolen! The malware script contained in a memory card can be secretly inserted into a single machine by a poll body official or an assistant all within a span of 10 fleeting seconds. It will then automatically spread to the other computers in the network to shave off votes on opposition candidates and pad up the votes for the favored ones. No hacking from the outside is required. Just a little help from the poll officials who owes allegiance not to the country they are supposed to serve but to the 'powers that be' who conveniently appointed them to their positions. (Still wonder why the local IT specialists and the academe were not consulted at all for the poll computerization project?)

How can I not paint such a sordid scenario for the 2010 Philippine elections? - When all through out the country's electoral history, electoral fraud has been showing its ugly head without fail on election day?

In the past, "flying voters" openly transported to the election precincts on election day were commonplace. After citizens electoral watchdogs were formed, "flying voters" dwindled in numbers, however, politicians quickly resorted to vote buying. When this too was being exposed, ballot switching became the change-over order of the day come election time.  Again, when the poll watchdog's growing vigilance made ballot switching harder, fraud was perpetrated by the poll officials themselves who were switching official electoral returns with manufactured ones in the municipal canvassing as well as in the electoral tribunal level. It is not wishful thinking for us to expect that electoral fraud will be perpetrated by the electoral officials themselves! We have helplessly seen these done over and over again as in the now infamous "Garci" case. Poll computerization will allow them to commit fraud with total ease.

Corruption has been a way of life in this country... "ruling by theft" seems to be the political way of life. Every effort by its citizenry to preserve the sanctity of the ballot is constantly met by more sophisticated ways to steal votes crafted by corrupt politicians longing to desperately hang on to power! It seems that their appetite for power will always be insatiable as they continue with their ways in bleeding the country's coffers dry.
With the current administration's notoriety for rigging election returns, it will not be a surprised if the poll computerization project turns out to be a ploy to steal the votes and perpetrate their rule of corruption and intimidation!

Watch these videos and tell me if such a scenario is only a pigment of my imagination!

Princeton University Exposes Diebold Flaws
Main Findings The main findings of this study are:

1. Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.

2. Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

3. AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruse! s - computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- ! and post-election activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.

4. While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.
American Voting Sytem Hacked
Bev Harris of demonstrates to Howard Dean how EASY it is for anyone with access to the central tabulator computer to RIG the ELECTION. Diebold software is used in this demonstration and in the American voting system.
American Computer Hacker Testifies

American computer programmer Clinton Eugene Curtis is seen in this video testifying under oath in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Members in Ohio.

He tells the members how he was hired by Congressman Tom Feeney in 2000 to build a prototype software package that would secretly rig an election to sway the result 51 / 49 to a specified side.

He explains that it would be undetectable and only takes 100 lines of code to implement, watch it and then think about where your vote is really going !
Hack The Vote
"Hack The Vote" is an in-depth look at the still-unsolved problems with electronic voting. Reporter Carter Evans secured the first-ever exclusive on-camera interview with a former employee (now turned whistleblower) of Diebold, one of the companies making these machines.

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