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Independent Reports to Be Released Friday, Public Comment Hearing in Sacramento on Monday, SoS Bowen's Final Certification Decisions on Aug. 3...
By Brad Friedman on 7/26/2007 8:11am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

Following up on yesterday's report on the latest machinations surrounding the release of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen's unprecedented "Top-to-Bottom Review" --- including independent hack testing and source code analysis --- of electronic voting systems. The BRAD BLOG has received a few more details on official release dates and timing, including a public hearing in Sacramento next Monday, from the SOS's office [emphasis ours]:

-- The independent reports will be finalized and posted to our website this Friday, July 27. These will include all the teams' findings in the four areas of the voting systems review, without opinions about what the state and counties should do.

-- A public hearing will be held in Sacramento beginning at 10:00 a.m. Monday, July 30. It will begin with the two principal investigators presenting an overview of their findings, followed by vendor responses and then a general public comment period.

-- Secretary Bowen's decisions on system certifications will come August 3, after her thorough review of the findings and public input.

We're in Texas, but hoping those within driving, walking, running distance from Sacramento will show up to the Capitol to give their thoughts on the findings on Monday, as we expect the voting machine vendors to be there in droves, and they may need a reminder that they do not own these elections. The citizens do.

We're also still waiting to hear back from Steve Weir, the Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County and President of the California Assoc. of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), for details on his published comments indicating that CA registrars may choose to ignore Bowen's findings. The CACEO has blasted Bowen's review of voting systems previously.

Not sure what Weir's legal theory is for such an action, which seems to fly in the face of both the law and the will of the people --- Bowen was elected precisely on her promises to take the actions she's currently taking after both her predecessor in CA and federal agencies had failed completely to properly test these voting systems before certifying them --- but we'll let you know what we learn. We've invited Weir to appear on the Peter B. Collins Show, which we continue to Guest Host through the end of this week. We'd love to hear from him, of course. Stay tuned...

UPDATE 7/27/07 2:40pm PT: Still waiting for the release of the reports, which I'm told by the SOS will be "any moment". When it's released, it should be right here.

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Results of Unprecedented Testing to Be Released Next Week, While Voting Machine Companies Continue in Denial, and CA Clerks Association Says They May Do What They Want Anyway...
By Brad Friedman on 7/25/2007 11:24am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from Houston...

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's landmark "top-to-bottom" review of electronic voting systems in California are due on August 3rd. (UPDATE: The SoS's Office informs us the report will be released this Friday. Details now posted here.) It'll be the first such official analysis, performed by several teams of testers, in which these voting systems have actually been tested for vulnerabilities and failures by "red team" hack/penetration testers, as well as having the system source codes fully and independently tested.

An article by Steve Harmon published in several CA newspaper this week offers a preview of the battle which may be ahead, including one exceedingly disturbing suggestion that California Election Clerks may be preparing to "ignore Bowen's findings and continue to use their systems" no matter what she may find, and whether or not she decertifies the systems for use.

Yours truly is quoted early in the piece, suggesting that "voting machine companies are quaking in their boots," as Bowen is doing precisely what she was elected to do and is fulfilling her campaign promises through the unprecedented series of tests.

John Gordon of Public Radio's Future Tense program followed up that printed report with his own four-minute audio report in which I'm also interviewed:

Of note in both reports, the voting machine company spokesholes are on the defensive, as expected. But the real battle after Bowen releases her findings may lie with the California Association of Clerks and Election Officers (CACEO), currently led by President Steve Weir, who makes some startling statements in the report...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Letter Obtained by BRAD BLOG to Voting Machine Company Confirms Potential Violations Of California Election Law as Revealed During CA SoS Bowen's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems
Matter May Have Far Reaching, National Consequences Concerning the Effectiveness of Escrowing Secret Vote-Counting Software...
By John Gideon on 7/10/2007 9:03am PT  

Blogged by John Gideon and Brad Friedman

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" of electronic voting systems previously approved for use by her predecessor is still underway. But before any of the findings from her teams of security specialists, software analysts and voting systems experts have been made public, the unprecedented analysis has already revealed a disturbing anomaly which may have far-reaching implications for both state and federal voting systems laws across the country.

As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively almost three weeks ago --- precisely zero media outlets bothered to file their own reports on this matter until last weekend --- all voting machine vendors certified in California had submitted their source code to Bowen for the review, except for ES&S, America's largest voting machine company.

After their refusal to submit the code as required for the test, Bowen demanded the source code used for the InkaVote Plus voting systems marketed by ES&S, and used exclusively in Los Angeles, be released to the state by the escrow firm which had been holding it as per state law.

Following Bowen's demand to the escrow company, Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management, ES&S reluctantly agreed to give their own version of the source code to the state.

Oddly enough at the time, the voting machine company, in an arrogant letter to Bowen (posted here in full by The BRAD BLOG), demanded that she withdraw her request to receive the version of the source code already stored in escrow at Iron Mountain. The letter succeeded in keeping our already-raised eyebrows at full perk, as the demand that Bowen not review the code in escrow, but rather look only at the one ES&S was sending, raised several troubling questions. Among them, we wondered at the time if perhaps the version stored in escrow was not the version actually used on the county's voting systems during last year's election. If so, there could be enormous ramifications for the company, and for the idea of escrowed source code for voting systems in general.

Over the weekend, an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the first organization to jump into this matter following our series of reports, filed a story on the matter which began to validate our suspicions. The paper reported that due to the late submission, the InkaVote Plus system would not be included in Bowen's "top-to-bottom review", presenting questions about which voting system would be allowed for use in 2008, in the country's most populous county. LA County is larger than many states in America.

It's as yet unclear whether Bowen will completely decertify the InkaVote Plus system for use, or whether she will take other steps.

Perhaps more disturbingly, however, the Daily News report includes comments from CA's Deputy SoS for Voting Systems, Lowell Finley, indicating that our concerns about differences in the submitted and escrowed source code may have been precisely on target.

We contacted Bowen's office for more details, and they shared with us the letter sent from Finley back to ES&S in response to the company's curious demands. The letter is posted in full at the end of this article. And if the issue Finley raises is indeed true, there may be a whole lotta trouble ahead...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Peter B. Collins Show Hosts Extremely Lively Discussion on Pros and Cons of Controversial House Bill's Allowance for Use of Dangerous DRE Touch-Screen Voting Systems
ALSO: CA SoS Debra Bowen Refuses to Support HR 811, Concerned About Putting 'Paper Trails Into Statute'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/2/2007 6:35am PT  

Blogged by Brad from Nashville after Escaping Atlanta...

"It's been a thriller," said the eponymous host of the Peter B. Collins Show as Friday's live radio debate wrapped up between myself and attorney Lawrence D. Norden, Chair of the NYU Brennan Center for Justice's Task Force on Voting System Security.

Norden made, in our spirited debate, what I believe to be some stunning admissions.

Complete "must listen" audio of the debate is available at the end of this article...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Arrogant Letter Agrees to Comply With Law by Submitting Source Code for Review, But Mysteriously Insists That SoS Bowen Revoke Demand to Release Version of Source Code Held by Escrow Firm...
By John Gideon on 6/28/2007 8:05am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

As The BRAD BLOG reported yesterday, voting machine company ES&S has finally relented and agreed to join all of the other companies operating in the state by cooperating with the Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all electronic voting systems previously certified by her predecessor Bruce McPherson. After previously refusing to supply the state with source code for the company's InkaVote Plus system used exclusively in Los Angeles County, Bowen had demanded the release of the source code from escrow where it was stored by state law, as we also reported previously.

But has ES&S really relented? Or is something else up?

We asked yesterday why ES&S decided to send their source code, instead of allowing Bowen to pull it from the escrow facility at Iron Mountain, as she had previously demanded. And now, based on a letter from the company which The BRAD BLOG was able to obtain from one of our sources, as sent to Bowen's office when they agreed to supply the source code Monday, the smell of something fishy continues to permeate. The complete ES&S letter is posted in full at the bottom of this article.

On Monday, June 25, ES&S sent the letter to Lowell Finley, California's Deputy Sec. of State in charge of Voting Systems Technology and Policy, agreeing to supply the source code for InkaVote Plus is an amazing example of the company's arrogance even as it continues to beg a myriad of unanswered questions.

ES&S opens the letter repeating their desire for changes to the previously agreed upon Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they have with the state. AS well, they believe the cost of Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" is too high, and they have concerns with some of the researchers who are doing the review. Nonetheless, they agree to cooperate.

Yet, after informing Finley that they intend to finally send the required source code, they instruct him that they expect him to send a letter to Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management Inc. to release the firm from the state's request for the escrowed source code. Now why would they need to do that?

"As ES&S is providing the InkaVote Plus voting system source code directly to your office, ES&S requests that you send a letter to Iron Mountain retracting your request for the InkaVote Plus voting system source code," writes ES&S' Steven M. Pearson in the letter.

"This will provide the required notification to Iron Mountain that you are no longer in need of the requested source code and allow Iron Mountain to close your request. In addition, this will avoid ES&S from having to issue contrary instructions to Iron Mountain to prohibit the release of the InkaVote Plus voting system source code."

So what the heck is that all about?...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Last Vendor to Hold Out from State's 'Top to Bottom Review' of Voting Equipment Coughs Up Source Code After SoS Bowen Demands Source Code Be Taken Out of Escrow...
By John Gideon on 6/26/2007 6:02pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

The BRAD BLOG has learned this evening that source code and a check were sent to the state of California by ES&S. Readers may recall that as of last Thursday ES&S had not complied with Sec. of State Debra Bowen's demand for a copy of the source code used exclusively in Los Angeles County.

According to a Secretary of State spokesperson, they received a copy of the source code and a check to cover the expense for the state's "top-to-bottom" review. ES&S finally relented, and sent the code only after Bowen had demanded it be released from escrow as per state law.

Questions still remain and your intrepid correspondent will be following-up with the state.

Why did the code come from ES&S and not from Iron Mountain, Inc., the escrow agent? Is there something in the escrowed code that ES&S does not wish the state to see? How does the state know that the code they got from ES&S is the same code used to build the software running on the machines used in LA County?

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CA SoS Debra Bowen Names Teams and Methods to be Used for 'First-of-its-Kind in the Nation' Certification, Decertification Process...
By Brad Friedman on 5/9/2007 12:28pm PT  

Doing twelve things at once today, so no time for analysis at this point. I'll just run CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's just released statement on her promised, unprecedented, first-of-its-kind in the nation, "top to bottom review" of all of California's electronic voting systems.

The review will include "red team" hack testing for the first time ever. Done as standard operating procedure for similar security-sensitive, mission-critical commercial systems, this sort of penetration testing has never been performed on America's voting systems. Until now.

The one page summary [PDF] of the plan states:

  • [University of California] will provide specialists from its campuses, as well as experts from public and private universities and private sector companies throughout the United States to create three teams of experts to conduct the reviews.
  • Each system will undergo a thorough document and source code review, red team penetration testing, and a review to determine whether it’s accessible to all voters.
  • The review teams will provide an independent technical evaluation of the voting systems that the Secretary of State will use to carry out her statutory duty with respect to voting systems in determining whether the systems comply with current state and federal law.

There are links within her statement below where you can find more details. For example, the State's review teams will include folks such as computer security expert "hacking" Harri Hursti, and blind technology expert Noel Runyan, who has been highly critical of unverifiable touch-screen DRE voting systems.

More on all of this, perhaps, later after I've had time to review the materials myself. But for now, see the statement below for some killer quotes from Bowen...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Responds to Editorial by Former CA SoS's Newspaper, Criticism from CA Elections Officials Who Admit Their Voting Systems are Likely Neither Secure nor Accurate
ALSO: Op/Ed by BRAD BLOG/VelvetRevolution.us's Own Emily Levy Runs Along Side Bowen's in Same Paper...
By Brad Friedman on 4/10/2007 2:27pm PT  

CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen responds to the Santa Cruz Sentinel's silly anti-democracy editorial last week with an op/ed 01of her own that ran in the paper on Sunday.

Please note that the Sentinel was previously owned by former CA SoS McPherson, the one who approved all of these un-secure, un-transparent electronic voting systems for our state in the first place.

It's good to know that Bowen is standing up for the voters, despite the crush of criticism she's received from the anti-voter Elections Officials in CA

Here's how she begins her piece in response:


Are all of California's voting systems secure, accurate, reliable and accessible?

It's a relatively simple question and I believe California's voters are entitled to an answer. If the answer to that question is "no," then some voting-machine vendors and county elections officials who rely on their equipment will undoubtedly be inconvenienced. But it's the 37 million Californians who will truly suffer if we don't have the courage to ask that question in the first place.

...And here's how she ends it:

Every election year, far too many voters are left to wonder if their voice matters, or if their vote even counts. To argue that because there are elections to conduct, California doesn't have time to determine if the voting equipment is secure, accurate, reliable and accessible ignores the fundamental reason why we hold elections in the first place.

People need to have confidence their votes are counted exactly as they were cast. If we fail to ensure the integrity of our voting systems, we'll do little but undermine the foundation of our democracy.

Kudos to Bowen! Again!

Please note that in the same Sunday Sentinel our own occasional BRAD BLOG Guest Blogger, Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us, also has an excellent op/ed in response to their original, ridiculous editorial. Kudos to Emily as well!

Speaking out matters!

And on that note, I'll remind you that if you haven't already, please contact PFAW@PFAW.org NOW! See this article for why it's imperative that you do immediately!

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Thomas Elias Scores Again...Reports on Orange County Recount Shame, Jeff Stone's 'Riverside Hack Challenge,' Voting Machine 'Sleepovers,' McPherson's 'Hursti Chicken Out,' and Bowen's Call for Real Hack Tests...
By Brad Friedman on 4/7/2007 5:52pm PT  

Columnist Thomas Elias gets it right again. Today, he begins this way...

Just in case there was some confusion, California's new Democratic secretary of state, Debra Bowen, has now made it crystal clear she doesn't trust many of the electronic voting machines commonly used in the last few California elections.

Nor does she appear impressed with safeguards that satisfied her appointed Republican predecessor Bruce McPherson. McPherson believed the presence of voter-verified paper trails from touch-screen and other new voting machines would guarantee accurate recounts wherever needed.

But in the only significant recount of the last year, just after a February special election for Orange County supervisor decided by less than 10 votes between two candidates each named Nguyen (pronounced “win”), paper trails weren't even counted.

He then reports again on the Jeff "1000 to 1" Stone's apparently-aborted "Riverside Hack Challenge," the dangers of voting machine "sleepovers," former CA SoS McPherson's backing out of an invitation to Harri Hursti to hack Diebold systems in the state last year, and, most importantly, CA's current SoS Debra Bowen's important plan to finally properly test all voting systems used in elections.

If we didn't know better --- and that nothing useful to the MSM is ever reported by those crazy, unreliable, "left-wing bloggers" --- we might have even thought that Elias is a regular BRAD BLOG reader or sumpin' ;-)

He concludes his column thusly:

The bottom line: A sense of security and trust will be restored to elections only after counties install machines reliable enough to withstand thorough testing like Bowen obviously knows is needed.

Bingo. The full recommended column is here...

If you'd like to send a thanks for Elias's consistent good work on this issue, he can be reached via email here...

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As we Sit Down for a One-on-One Debriefing with the Finnish Computer Security Expert and Discuss American Elections, Rush Holt's Reform Bill, Debra Bowen, 'Black Hats' and Why Elections Matter
Big Turnout and Good Press Coverage Accompany his Riverside Visit, Even if Jeff '1000 to 1' Stone Was a No Show...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2007 7:13pm PT  

Harri Hursti drove up to Los Angeles last Friday after his appearance that morning before the Riverside County, California, "Blue Ribbon" panel convened to investigate massive problems during the County's 2006 election, and continuing concerns from Election Integrity advocates about both the performance and security issues surrounding the Sequoia Edge II DRE touch-screen voting systems in use down there.

We sat down to interview Hursti for a documentary film for an hour or two on Friday night, and we continued chatting into the wee hours. After getting home around 4am, we suspect we'll be playing catching up for a few days.

The headline from those discussions last night is probably that Hursti, now famous for his hack of a paper-based Diebold optical-scan voting system in Leon County, Florida, in late 2005 (as seen live in HBO's documentary Hacking Democracy), advocates digital optically-scanned paper ballots --- where the image of the scan can then be made available to all on the Internet --- as the most secure and most transparent method of voting for the type of elections we have in these United States.

That may come as a surprise to advocates of Rep. Rush Holt's Election Reform bill, who have been pointing to the "Hursti Hack" as a way to suggest that op-scan tabulation is "just as bad" as Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting systems. Holt's bill (HR811) would allow for the continued use of DREs, despite the continuing warnings from computer scientists, disabilities and minority rights advocates, and the Election Integrity community that the devices should be banned.

Hursti heartily disagrees with those Holt supporters and told us again that DREs are not safe for use in elections, with or without a so-called "voter verified paper audit trail." He's asked for us to help facilitate a meeting for him with Holt and his staff to discuss the matter, and we are attempting to do just that.

As well, Hursti's position may also come as a surprise to those who have pointed to the "Hursti Hack" in their call for 100% hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) in American elections. While Hursti said he recognizes that such a system works well enough in other countries where ballots are much simpler, he feels the thousands of ballot styles and pages and pages of candidates and propositions would likely make all HCPB unwieldy here. By contrast, he explained that in Finland, voters go to the poll and cast a single vote for President as the only race on the ballot, which is simple enough to hand count on the night of the election.

He rattled off the many different systems of democracy in many different countries, from Europe to Asia, as well as a history of how America has come to its current mess, going back as early as the late 1800's to discuss the evolution of our modern day system in this country. Clearly, he's done his homework and is well worth listening to on these matters.

Hursti also gave high marks to California's new Secretary of State Debra Bowen for her recent announcement of "red team" hack testing for all of the state's currently certified electronic voting systems, as part of her "top to bottom review" of those systems. Other computer scientists and security experts have lined up to join in praising Bowen for this unique, first-of-its-kind attempt to finally test the security of these systems.

On the other hand, many of the state's elections officials have come out against such testing of their precious, hackable, un-transparent voting systems. And, surprise surprise, so has the Santa Cruz Sentinel --- the paper once owned by thankfully-former CA SoS Bruce McPherson --- in a laughable editorial late last week claiming that "paper ballots carry an even greater risk" than electronic voting systems, and that Bowen's planned test criteria is a "solution in search of a problem."

We're not sure what cave the Santa Cruz Sentinel has been living in, but we're guessing they've been sharing their hard tack and canned spam with their buddy, the gone-but-apparently-not-forgotten McPherson, the one responsible for certifying these god-awful systems in the first place for the state, despite mountains of evidence suggesting it was unwise. We're also guessing they've never sat down to chat with Harri Hursti.

Hursti's visit to Riverside, as we reported here last week, was in response to County Supervisor Jeff Stone's challenge last December that nobody could manipulate the county's Sequoia election system. After Hursti volunteered to take Stone up on that "1000 to 1" challenge, the county has been waffling ever since. So quite a few members of both the public and the press were on hand yesterday for Hursti's testimony before the "Blue Ribbon" panel.

Although Hursti traveled all the way from Finland, Stone and every other member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors were apparently too busy to make it up the road to meet Hursti and listen to his presentation...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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All Eyes on Harri Hursti in Riverside County...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2007 12:53am PT  

FEATURING: Our One-on-One Debriefing with the Finnish Computer Security Expert on American Elections, Rush Holt's Reform Bill, Debra Bowen, 'Black Hats,' and Why Elections Matter...Pre-details back here...

UPDATE: Story now posted here...

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Official Comments from CA Election Clerks on Proposed Test Criteria by SoS Bowen Reveal They Are in a Panic...And Are Clueless About the One Thing That Truly Matters to Voters...
By Brad Friedman on 3/26/2007 8:40pm PT  

California's election clerks --- or at least those who are members of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO) --- are freaking out in light of CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen's newly proposed draft criteria for her promised, "first-of-its-kind top-to-bottom review" of all electronic voting systems in the state.

Bowen's most welcome and strictly drawn draft criteria, as we reported last week, are open for public comment through April 6th, after which testing will begin on systems which will lose their certification for 2008 if they do not meet the refreshingly strict standards to be reviewed (finally!).

In a document dated today and obtained by The BRAD BLOG, the CACEO --- who worked very hard, if unsuccessfully, to see Bowen's irresponsible predecessor, the hapless Bruce McPherson, re-elected --- filed their comments on Bowen's test criteria. And they don't like 'em. They don't like 'em one bit.

While we can hardly say we're surprised by that, or that they didn't bother to post the document on their own website yet, we can say that we're surprised that these folks who run elections for a living still seem completely and utterly unaware of the one thing that matters to voters --- and any successful democracy --- the most...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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It's a Bad Day in Cali for Diebold and ES&S and Sequoia and Hart Intercivic...But a Great Day for the Voters!
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2007 10:05am PT  

"Clean up politics. Elect Women." Indeed.

In our second "New Female Secretary of State Kicks Ass, Cleans Up Mess Wrought by Male Predecessor" story of the day, California's own Debra Bowen issued her draft criteria to be used for the first-of-its-kind, "top to bottom review" of all electronic voting systems she promised just before taking office. And the electronic voting machine companies ain't gonna like 'em. But we do.

"The review is designed to restore people's confidence in the integrity of our electoral process," Bowen said in a statement issued yesterday to announce the criteria and her call for public input, "Every California voter has the right to have their vote counted as it was cast."

Imagine that. Am I dreamin'?! The criteria are now posted here [PDF] for public comment.

And, oh, man...Here's just a taste. From the "Security Standards" section...

a. DREs. Each direct recording electronic voting system (“DRE”), as defined in Elections Code Section 19251(b), must incorporate, as part of its design, hardware, firmware and/or software program features that effectively secure the DRE and all electronic media used with the DRE against untraceable vote tampering or denial of service attacks by any person with access to the DRE, its firmware, software and/or electronic media during their manufacture, transport, storage, temporary storage, programming, testing and use, including the electronic ballot definition or layout process.

The criteria are virtually the same for op-scans and central tabulating systems. And from the "Security Testing" section (Jeff "1000 to 1" Stone of Riverside County is not gonna like this)...

The security of each DRE, vote tabulating device, and ballot tally computer will be tested using two complementary methods, “red teaming” and source code review. The Secretary will select qualified industry and academic experts in computer and software security, including experts on electronic voting systems, to perform both types of tests.

a. Red Teaming. The “red teaming” process is analogous to military training exercises in which the members of the “red team” are adversaries trying to defeat friendly, “blue team” forces. The red team exercise will be designed to simulate conditions in which a voting system might be vulnerable to attack in the actual cycle of manufacturing, programming, delivery, testing, storage, temporary storage and use in California elections. Initially, the team will approach the system knowing nothing of its source code. Knowledge of source code may be used in subsequent attack attempts. The objective will be to determine whether and to what degree it is possible to compromise the security of the voting system to interfere with the accurate recording of votes or alter the record of votes to change the result of an election.

Now we're getting somewhere! And we're also reminded why Bowen was the only candidate ever officially endorsed by The BRAD BLOG!

"I want input from as many people as possible – voting rights activists, county elections officials, and anyone else who wants to offer an opinion," said Madame Secretary, putting the voting rights folks first for a refreshing change, in her statement.

Input on the draft criteria can be sent here: votingsystems@sos.ca.gov. The criteria for California, or as Diebold refers to it, "the world's largest voting market," will be finalized by April 6.

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But Secretary Bowen Says Board of Supes Proposed 'Ground Rules' for Test 'Overly Narrow,' 'Would Prove Little and Give Voters False Sense of Security'
Supervisor Stone's Hope for SoS Participation in '1000 to 1' Bet with Election Integrity Advocates under Unilateral, Unrealistic Restrictions Flatly Rejected by State's New Election Chief...
By Brad Friedman on 2/26/2007 4:33pm PT  

California's new Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, has flatly rejected a request from Riverside County, CA County Supervisor Jeff Stone to participate in a "hack test" challenge originally proposed to Election Integrity Advocates in response to their concerns about security and accuracy for the county's electronic touch-screen voting machines, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

In a letter sent to Stone last week obtained by The BRAD BLOG (posted in full at the end of this article), Secretary Bowen found that though there was no state law to prohibit such a test, her office would not participate, in part due to the narrow restrictions initially insisted upon by Supervisor Stone.

In her reply to a letter sent in early January to outgoing Secretary of State Bruce McPherson just days before he would leave office, Bowen wrote, "I am not aware of any state law that would prohibit the type of security test that you described in your letter." Unlike Bowen, the former SoS had been seen as far more favorable towards relaxed security issues for electronic voting.

As The BRAD BLOG originally reported last December, Stone had initially challenged local Election Integrity advocates "a thousand to one," during a public hearing, that a programmer would be unable to "manipulate" the county's voting system.

In her letter to McPherson Bowen joined other computer security professionals who had previously rejected Stone's unilateral suggestions for ground rules, calling them "overly narrow," potentially giving voters a "false sense of security." Stone had written to the former SoS that just "15 minutes would be allotted" for the test and the programmer who accepted the challenge --- noted computer security expert Harri Hursti --- would be prohibited from using any tools or reaching around the back of the machine. "In every sense," Stone wrote, "he would be like any voter on Election Day approaching a voting unit at the polls."

Bowen, however, balked at Stone's unilateral ground rules, writing in response...

While I appreciate and applaud your goal of increasing the voters' confidence in the systems they use to cast their ballots, an overly narrow test such as the one you have constructed would, at best, prove very little and, at worst, give voters a false sense of security. Your demonstration, if the results are as you expect, can prove only that it is difficult to successfully tamper with voting equiopment in a limited time frame in a polling place setting if poll workers have the ability to preclude voters from taking certain actions (e.g., reaching around the back of the machine) and/or bringing certain items (e.g., tools) into the voting booth with them.

As you know, voting equipment is subject to tampering in a wide range of settings.

This test you have proposed wouldn't address the issue of whether a someone who can reach around the back of the machine undetected or can bring a tool into the voting booth without being noticed by a poll worker will be able to gain access to the machine.

As well, Bowen also highlighted the point made by Election Integrity Advocates, computer security professionals, and even the Baker/Carter "Blue Ribbon" National Election Reform Commission that made the point that the greatest threat to e-voting security likely comes from election insiders, such as officials or poll workers who have been allowed to take pre-programmed, election-ready systems home with them in the days prior to the election as allowed by Riverside County.

Such insider access is seen as a far greater threat to security than that from voters on Election Day. As Bowen wrote in reply...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Guest Blogger Attorney Ken Simpkins Seeks Your Help in Bringing Accountability to One of America's Worst Elections Officials...
By Ken Simpkins on 2/18/2007 4:39pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Ken Simpkins

ED NOTE: Over the last nine months or so, along with attorney Paul Lehto, Carlsbad, CA attorney Simpkins has filed a number of voter lawsuits in San Diego in his continuing attempt to help bring accountability to the unaccountable San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas and his atrocious elections administration. Those suits included complaints and appeals in the now-infamous Busby/Bilbray Special Election as well as voter lawsuits brought both before and after last November's General Election in San Diego.

After being stonewalled by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office on requests for recounts, information regarding the right to vote on paper ballots, and the results of an audit of the November 2006 election, citizens are taking action. Last Thursday, a complaint [PDF] was submitted to the new California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, addressing voters’ concerns. Secretary Bowen was voted into office on the promise of cleaning up elections.

SD County's Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas, has attracted the attention of The BRAD BLOG for many months as "one of the worst elections officials in the country." His policy of sending pre-programmed, election-ready Diebold voting machines home with poll workers weeks in advance of elections, without any training on security or assurance that the machines would be held in a secure environment, likewise attracted the ire of many San Diego County voters. Those same voters are signing a petition urging the Secretary of State to investigate the allegations in the complaint and report on the findings. I urge you to sign it as well.

The complaint reports on the violations of the certification requirements under state and federal law, the failure to properly test the machines pursuant to official procedures, the policy of undermining the right to vote on paper ballots, and the disregard of basic auditing principles in conducting the required one percent manual tally.

The voting machine "sleepover" policy is one example of the disregard by the Registrar of Voters of the proven vulnerabilities of the Diebold machines, which can be hacked in one minute and made to change the outcome of an election. In defending the sleepover policy, Mr. Haas points to the "tamper-evident" tape used to seal the memory card compartment as sufficient security against fraud. But, when one observer discovered on election day that the tape had been removed from the machines at two precincts, and reported the violation of the certification requirements to Mr. Haas, he refused to take the machines out of service and allowed voters to cast their votes on the then-uncertified machines...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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