Thursday, January 10, 2008

Can we trust New Hampshire's voting machines?

After the stolen presidential election of 2000 (because the vote counting was stopped) and the probably stolen election of 2004 (in Ohio), I wonder when the media struggles to explain how polls get results wrong.  Below is something regarding New Hampshire's primary.  There are many problems built into our electoral system that discourage voting, but do we also have to worry that the election will be stolen again this year, or that there will be a shocking "October Surprise" engineered to benefit one side, or even provide a pretext to stop the election (which I hope is unlikely)?  If any of this happens, will the losing side and the American public allow it, or will we refuse to allow it, as people in other countries have risen up against their canceled or stolen elections in recent years? 
>Please distribute widely, Digg, Blog, reprints, get
this to the media, etc.
>A YouTube video from Black Box Voting that you won't
soon forget:
>John Silvestro and his small private business, LHS
Associates, has exclusive programming contracts for
ALL New Hampshire voting machines, which combined will
count about 81 percent of the vote in the primary. And
as to Super Tuesday and beyond: Silvestro also has the
programming contracts for the states of Connecticut,
Massachusetts, and Vermont.
>Silvestro IS the New Hampshire chain of custody in
New England -- Or at least, a very large component in
>Last fall, with the help of citizens like you, Black
Box Voting began working on "Chain of Custody"
projects, in which we identified some of the areas of
concern that might affect many jurisdictions at once.
First on the list for the Northeast U.S. is LHS
Associates, a vendor with inside access to every
memory card, as well as to the chips containing the
"brain" of the Diebold optical scan machines.
>In an unusual confluence of available video, we
obtained footage of Silvestro grappling with Harri
Hursti, the master hacker who had his way with the
Diebold optical scans in Leon County, Florida in the
famous exploit that was showcased in the film Hacking
>The exact same make, model and version hacked in the
Black Box Voting project in Leon County is used
throughout New Hampshire, where about 45 percent of
elections administrators hand count paper ballots at
the polling place, with the remaining locations all
using the Diebold version 1.94w optical scan machine.
Because the voting machine locations tend to be urban,
this represents about 81 percent of the New Hampshire
>The video shows Harri Hursti testifying on Sept. 19
before the New Hampshire legislature, attempting to
explain significant vulnerabilities requiring urgent
mitigations; throughout his testimony, Silvestro
inserted his own comments, opinions, misstatements and
>One area of disagreement between Hursti and Silvestro
was the amount of expertise needed to exploit the
Diebold 1.94w optical scan system. Silvestro claimed
(in a strange contortion of reasoning) that he doesn't
hire very skilled programmers, implying that this
makes New Hampshire elections more secure.
>Hursti pointed out that hiring programmers with a
lack of knowledge is generally not considered a
security feature, and also that an average high
schooler can learn to exploit the system in two days
to two weeks.
>Black Box Voting purchased a Diebold optical scan
with 1.94w firmware, and chose a computer repair shop
out of the phone book, took it in, grabbed the first
available technician. It took him less than 10 minutes
to zero in on the memory card as a point of critical
vulnerability -- and oh my, did he point out some
other intersting things!
>Silvestro tries to claim that the security problems
have been fixed in newer editions. Whether or not they
have been, it's a moot point in New Hampshire where
the upgrade is not made unless the Ballot Law
Commission meets, and they have not met for ages.
>Silvestro then points to extraordinary measures taken
by other states to enact special procedural
safeguards, but of course none of those were
implemented in New Hampshire either, because the
Ballot Law Commission has not bothered to meet since
March 2006.
>Not only that, they have turned all the programming
over to a sole source private company, taking vote
counting for 81 percent of New Hampshire citizens out
of the public domain.
>LHS is not subject to public records requirements, as
the government is, at least, not in New Hampshire. The
control over memory card contents is absolute; when
cards malfunction or get lost, LHS brings the
>Since LHS maintains the machines, repairs the
machines, and replaces the machines -- often on
Election Day -- when they malfunction, they have
intimate access to the chips, sockets, ports,
communications devices and other electronic
>Silvestro stated that the chip has "read only memory"
and cannot be reprogrammed without frying it under
ultraviolet light overnight.
>Hursti never had a chance to examine the hardware,
nor have most of the recent university studies had
access. But our friendly neighborhood computer repair
guy differed with Silvestro on the point of plug &
play reprogramming of the guts of the machine.
>After I push the button to send this message out to
the media and the citizenry, I'll work on getting a
short YouTube video of the Accuvote checkup by our
local computer repairman. And before you say, "But
wait! He's not a world class expert!" -- That's just
the point.
>Our local computer repairman may hit or miss on some
of his analyses. You'll all be able to try your hand
at second guessing him as soon as the next video is
up. But if he hits even one of his ideas for how to
exploit the machine to steal votes, that's all it
takes. From someone who is not, certainly, a world
class hacker or even a hacker at all.
>I'll post the link to that in a follow up here:
, and invite you techs to weigh in.
>Please feel free to distribute, reprint or excerpt,
with link to Black Box Voting and the video link
>Bev Harris
>Black Box Voting
>bev at blackboxvoting dot org

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