Local Media Outlet Finally Reports on the Stunning Allegations in William Singer's Whistleblower Suit, Local Election Officials Respond With the Same Old, Disingenous, Long-Ago Debunked Nonsense...
By Brad Friedman on 4/13/2008, 7:22pm PT  

In Aurora, Illinois, today, Beacon News' Dan Campana files a very good report on the federal fraud suit filed against Austin, Texas, based voting machine company Hart InterCivic. The suit, alleging dozens of false claims and fraudulent activities by Hart in order to receive federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money, was filed originally by former employee turned whistleblower William Singer back in 2006, but did not become unsealed until March 27th, when The BRAD BLOG covered it, along with posting the full stunning complaint [PDF].

Beacon News is based in Kane County, IL, which uses the faulty Hart voting systems in question.

Campana's report today --- which quotes yours truly in a number of places --- is the only corporate media coverage of the lawsuit in the nearly three weeks since the case was finally unsealed. Until now, there's been the fairly extensive coverage found on this blog, an item on the same day the case was unsealed filed by Kim Zetter at WIRED's "Threat Level" blog (which we replied to here), and a very short squib from AP on the same day, which, according to a quick Google News search, was carried by only a single news outlet, CBS 4 in Denver.

(For the record, our extensively detailed and sourced report on Hart's attempted takeover of Sequoia late last week has been picked up by nobody, other than ComputerWorld where we, ourselves, filed a short summary report. That, despite officials from both Hart and Sequoia having confirmed the accuracy of our report, and the fact that Hart, which controls some 8% of the voting market in this country, is about to swallow up Sequoia Voting Systems, which controls 20% of it, to become the nation's second largest e-voting machine vendor. We'll know by Tuesday at the latest, most likely, if Sequoia was able to save itself from Hart's hostile takeover.)

So with a dearth of coverage anywhere but here, we can heartily recommend Campana's report on Singer's suit. His article includes comments from us (as mentioned), one of Singer's attorneys, Hart spokesperson Peter Lichtenheld (who shamelessly plays the tired old "conspiracy theory" card), some Election Integrity advocates from the non-partisan Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, and some state and local Kane County election officials who have deluded themselves into believing their Hart machines are safe for use in American democracy.

When Campana interviewed us for his story, we suggested he ask any of the election officials he planned to interview for a single piece of evidence to prove that any single vote, ever cast during an election on a Hart DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machine in the county, has ever been recorded accurately, as intended by a voter.

Though Campana references our challenge in his report ("Friedman contends no government officials can prove the votes cast on electronic machines can be accurately linked to tallies",) he doesn't quote any of the officials as being able to offer such evidence. Little surprise, because they can't produce such evidence. It's strictly impossible. Yet they continue to use these machines anyway.

But he does manage to get a few amusing and wholly unsupportable statements from some of those deluded officials. We're delighted to spend our Sunday dismantling them --- both the statements, and the officials...

The bulk of officials interviewed for the piece, as Campana reports, believe the Hart system is "well worth the money as it brought greater speed, security and accuracy to the process." Speed, perhaps, but their claims of added "security and accuracy" are evidence-free hogwash.

State Board of Elections Director Dan White believes all is well on the Hart voting systems because, he claims, "there haven't been any reports of problems" since the state certified them.

Elections Director Jay Bennett says "Hart wouldn't have gotten past the first door" if Singer's claims were accurate. "We test the living daylights out of them," he's quoted as saying.

Really, Mr. Bennet? Where are the results of those tests? Do they test for the system failures Singer alleged in the complaint? And how do you explain the dozens of vulnerabilities found in Hart's machines when scores of world-class computer scientists and security experts actually did test the living daylights out of them in CA SoS Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom" review?

Kane County Clerk John Cunningham said, "I'm pleased with the equipment we bought...We welcome anybody to put a magnifying glass on it."

Really, Mr. Cunningham? Anybody? I'm sure the folks at the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project --- who meet the criteria of "anybody," we'd think --- would be happy to take you up on that offer! When can they swing by to pick up a machine to put that magnifying glass on it?

Not that we don't trust you, Mr. Cunningham, but you have exhibited exceedingly bad judgment in the past, such as when you hired John Bruun to be country Election Director. Bruun was found guilty of swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars "from a disabled man," and several others, as The Daily Herald told us in 2003, before being hired as Kane County's Election Director after being "turned down for jobs as a teacher, bus driver and real estate agent because of his criminal record."

But we digress...and while we're waiting for Mr. Cunningham to make one of those Hart machines available so that the citizens forced to use them can put them under a magnifying glass as he promises, luckily, someone else has already put the same systems under such a magnifying glass, and imagine what they found?

The expert reviewers commissioned by CA SoS Bowen last year at the University of California found, as described in her decertification of the system [PDF], when examining the daylights out of the Hart InterCivic eSlate and eScan systems, that "the physical and technological security mechanisms provided [were] inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results."

They reported that the system "contain[s] serious design flaws that have led directly to specific vulnerabilities, which attackers could exploit to affect election outcomes."

Specifically, the Source Code review [PDF] team found that Hart's voting system, among other problems:

  • "[C]ontains design features that can be used in a fashion for which those design features were not intended, including network interfaces that are not secure against direct attack"
  • "Fails to check the correctness of inputs from other Hart voting system components and uses those inputs in unsafe ways, potentially enabling an attacker to use voting system components to reprogram voting system units throughout the county with malicious code that would affect a subsequent election"
  • "[E]xhibits a notable lack of the use of cryptographic security protocols to secure network communications, and where cryptography is used, [it can be done in a way] that could allow a person to forge ballot information and election results in multiple locations"

Among the findings of the CA SoS' "Red Team" (hack testers) [PDF], it was discovered --- without them having access to the source code --- that the Hart voting system was vulnerable to:

  • "electronic ballot box stuffing attack."
  • The ability to "overwrite [Hart] software"
  • "violat[ing] a voters right to privacy by linking voters to their vote selections."
  • "overwrit[ing]...ballots with records containing votes for a candidate [an attacker] does want to be successful."
  • "altered vote totals that can only be detected in the event of a manual recount of eSlate VVPAT [Voter-verifiable paper audit trail] records"

In conclusion, the hack team found they were "...able to discover attacks for the Hart system that could compromise the accuracy, secrecy, and availability of the voting systems and their auditing mechanisms. That is, the Red Team has developed exploits that absent procedural mitigation strategies can alter vote totals, violate the privacy of individual voters, make systems unavailable, and delete audit trails."

Other than that magnifying glass, we're sure Illinois "tested the daylights out of them." We look forward to those referenced Illinois test results seeing daylight soon, as they have in California. Until then, you'll have to color us dubious (to put it nicely).

And while we're waiting for that, we hope Campana, and the rest of the media in Illinois, will continue to report on this matter and hold some feet to a long-overdue fire.

Oh..and the folks in Cook County, IL, (such as County Clerk David Orr) --- who chose to do business with Sequoia instead of Hart --- might want to ask a few more questions than they already have of their friends at Sequoia about Hart's impending takeover, since we don't suspect the fine folks of Cook meant to go into business with a company facing federal fraud charges, and we know for a fact that Sequoia hasn't told its good clients in Cook what's really going on.

Or maybe nobody cares. We'll see.

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