San Diego Union Tribune
Report: Touch-screen's flaws can be overcome
Louis Monteagudo Jr.
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
The new touch-screen voting machines San Diego County wants to use beginning next March have technological flaws that could compromise election results, but those problems can be fixed, according to a new study done for the state of Maryland.
The study of the Diebold Accuvote-TS machines by San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. said the system is "at high risk of compromise." And, the report said, if the flaws were to be exploited, "significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity and availability of election results."
Yet the various improvements recommended for the machines and for elections procedures will reduce the risks, the report said. In addition, Diebold has agreed to add security features to their machines, including tougher encryption software and additional password codes. ...
SAIC, a scientific research and engineering firm, was contracted by the state of Maryland to investigate the Diebold Accuvote-TS machines. ...
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had ordered an independent review of the Diebold system after a highly critical report of the machines was published in July by researchers at John Hopkins University.
SAIC, however, recommended several improvements, ranging from providing more security training and establishing audits to more technical measures like the use of cryptography and new passwords.
Diebold spokesman Frank Caplan said the company is satisfied with the SAIC report and is making the improvements to its system.
"We hope that this will satisfy most of the critics, that an independent organization has reviewed the hardware, the software and the election procedures and has verified that elections can be conducted fairly and accurately with the Diebold machines," Caplan said.
Critics of the technology said the study confirms their fears that voting machines can be tampered with.
"I agree with the fixes that are required," said Douglas Jones, a computer professor at the University of Iowa. "On the other hand, I don't think the fixes are enough."
Jones also complained that several portions of the study were omitted before publication. Maryland officials said the portions were omitted to keep information out of the hands of people who would want to tamper with the machines.
Avi Rubin, one of the John Hopkins researchers, criticized Maryland officials for moving ahead with the use of Diebold machines. He said the study confirms that Diebold's system is fundamentally flawed and he doubts the improvements will help.
"I'm highly skeptical that they can fix things that quickly and that they can fix all of the flaws," Rubin said.