Will Cyber-iceberg Sink The Liberal’s Ship?

Computer experts say Internet voting is “questionable”
by Jack Locke

As the Liberal Party of Canada floats into the uncharted waters of an Internet-based voting leadership contest, the party maintains their ship is sailing fine as a leading Canadian computer expert warns of a potential cyber-iceberg lurking in the dark.

“Online voting has significant security risks that makes its use in high stake elections, like a leadership race, questionable,” says Dr. Jeremy Clark, a scholar at Carleton University’s School of Computer Science.

Clark’s comments echo the warnings of Princeton University computer scholar, Andrew Appel, who says internet-voting is “laughably insecure.”

As the Liberal Party of Canada prepares to start their week-long leadership vote today, their spokesperson Sarah Bain says all is well. This is the first time the Liberals are using internet and telephone voting methods for their leadership election.

“We are confident that our registry and voting system will allow LPC(the Liberal Party of Canada) to conduct a fair and accurate leadership vote,” insists Bain. But her confidence is not shared by experts like Clark and Appel.

“Casting a ballot online with a typical internet voting system provides no assurance that the votes are counted correctly, without undue interference or programming mistakes,” says Clark.

The counting of votes can be interfered with at various points: during the sending of the vote, in its reception, and following its reception in the software program that does the counting.

“Further, the removal of the private voting booth opens the system to vote-selling and in-person coercion. Finally, internet voting requires voters to submit a secret ballot from a potentially malware-infected personal computer over a hostile network for storage on an internet-facing server susceptible to hacking attempts and denial of service attacks.”

In an exclusive story, Andrew Appel, chair of Princeton’s Department of Computer Science, said there are many known threats that can significantly alter proper voting results.

“Any known methods for public Internet voting are known to be very seriously flawed,” says Appel. “Although vendors talk about idealized security where (supposedly) all kinds of security measures are in place, in actual practice in real election administration these systems are laughably insecure.”

The Liberal’s voting systems, both internet and telephone, are being coordinated by Dominion Voting Systems, a company headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

“Dominion, contracted by LPC to conduct our voting procedure, along with LPC staff and hundreds of volunteers are extremely dedicated to ensuring the highest level of confidence and accuracy in our registry process and voting system,” says Bain.

About one hundred and one years ago, on April 15, 1912, Captain Edward John Smith was equally confident, that is, until his vessel the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean. One doubts that Justin Trudeau knows the words to “Nearer My God To Thee,” the last music played by the Titanic’s musical orchestra.


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One Response to “Will Cyber-iceberg Sink The Liberal’s Ship?”

  1. Ooops. Liberal voter numbers don’t add up | Lockeblog Says:

    […] © Jack Locke 2010. All rights reserved. « Will Cyber-iceberg Sink The Liberal’s Ship? […]

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