System failure follows warnings from e-voting experts that Estonian Internet Voting system vulnerable to attack, manipulated results...
By Brad Friedman on 5/26/2014, 8:09pm PT  

In case you're wondering, the U.S. isn't the only nation who still uses woefully unverifiable e-voting systems that are easily hacked and prone to malfunction and malfeasance. E-voting systems in Belgium failed spectacularly over the weekend, during the European Union "Super Sunday" elections there, according to PCWorld...

A bug in an e-voting application halted the release of European, federal and regional election results in Belgium, the country's interior ministry said Monday.
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A bug in the voting software used at canton headquarters where the votes are counted caused "incoherent" election results when it tried to add up preferential votes from those machines, ministry spokesman Peter Grouwels said. The application counted the results in different ways that should always get the same outcome but that wasn't the case, he said, adding that the release of the results was immediately stopped when this was discovered.

The fault appeared in the system despite the fact that the application was especially developed for these elections, was "tested thousands of times" and was certified by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, he said.

"Tested thousands of times." Gosh, that sounds familiar.

Also, familiar? The response to the disaster from the group that has been fighting against unverifiable e-voting systems for years there [emphasis added]...

Kommer Kleijn, spokesman for VoorEVA.be, a Belgian organization that rejects the e-voting system because "it deprives voters from effectively verifying the elections in which they partake" called the problems "a catastrophe."

"They claim that the recording of the votes was done flawlessly, but who can verify that? We can't," Kleijn said.

There is no way to prove that the bug was only present in the application used to add up the votes and not in other parts of the voting system, he said.

The group is demanding a re-vote in areas where the systems failed.

And, as in the U.S., it's not the first time the same systems have failed, before again being used in subsequent elections anyway...

In 2003 in the town of Schaarbeek for instance voting machines counted 4,096 more votes more than there were registered voters, according to a study conducted by seven Belgian universities. And in Liège in 2006, some candidates had a higher intermediate result than their end result, said Kleijn.

Unlike in the U.S., however, in many European countries, e-voting systems were rejected after failures became obvious and systems were found to be unverifiable:

Belgium is one of the last European countries to still use e-voting systems. In Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court banned the use of electronic voting machines in 2009 because results from the machines were not verifiable. The Netherlands banned the practice in 2008 after a group of activists successfully demonstrated that both types of electronic voting machines then in use could be tampered with.

The story was the same in Ireland, where e-voting machines were all scrapped after independent commissions pointed out the many vulnerabilities in the systems, leading their Minister for the Environment to declare the nation's e-voting systems a "scandalous waste of public money", once they were finally sold for scrap and trashed for good in 2012. At the time he declared the effort to move to e-voting as "ill-conceived" and said that he was "glad to bring this sorry episode to a conclusion on behalf of the taxpayer".

But, of course, in this country, despite the same failures, warnings and reports for years, we simply continue to use the very same e-voting systems over and over again --- including many originally made by the very same company whose systems failed in Belgium --- and even talk about doubling down with them by going to even less verifiable and less overseeable Internet Voting schemes.

Over the years, for example, Estonia is frequently cited by proponents of Internet Voting in the U.S., since that nation has been "successfully" carrying out Internet Voting for a number of years.

The reason that the word "successfully" is used in quotes there? Because of this report from earlier in the month:

The electronic voting system that has been used in Estonia since 2005 cannot guarantee fair elections because of fundamental security weaknesses and poor operational procedures, according to an international team of security and Internet voting researchers.

The analysis performed by the team's members, some of whom acted as observers during 2013 local elections in Estonia, revealed that sophisticated attackers, like those employed by nation states, could easily compromise the integrity of the country's Internet voting system and influence the election outcome, often without a trace.

The Estonia study was carried out by some of the very same folks who hacked Washington D.C.'s aborted 2010 attempt to move to Internet Voting. In the D.C. hack, they needed just 36 hours to take "total control of the server software, including the ability to change votes and reveal voters' secret ballots."

In Estonia, the group found, according to PCWorld's report, that they were able to develop "malware that can record PIN numbers and later change the votes" in the Estonian online voting system.

The computer scientists said that "fundamental flaws in the architecture of the system...means that we can steal votes remotely from voters' computers."

Though they recommended that the Internet Voting system be immediately discontinued, Estonia used the system during the European Parliamentary elections over the weekend anyway. Unlike the failed results discovered in Belgium, it's likely that nobody will ever know whether votes cast over the Internet in Estonia actually reflected the intent of any of their voters.

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