Blogs

The Dawn of a New blog

My personal blog will stray off the 9/11 path as I see fit.

IMO, a matter which is equally important to empowering politically active citizens of the United States is to ensure that the votes count. I'll be dropping links about Election Fraud and other political issues over time.

Welcome to the Monkey House.

-reprehensor


Pull The Plug

Aviel Rubin, 09.04.06, 12:00 AM ET

You don't like hanging chads? Get ready for cheating chips and doctored drives.

I am a computer scientist. I own seven Macintosh computers, one Windows machine and a Palm Treo 700p with a GPS unit, and I chose my car (Infiniti M35x) because it had the most gadgets of any vehicle in its class. My 7-year-old daughter uses e-mail. So why am I advocating the use of 17th-century technology for voting in the 21st century--as one of my critics puts it?

The 2000 debacle in Florida spurred a rush to computerize voting. In 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which handed out $2.6 billion to spend on voting machines. Most of that cash was used to acquire Direct Recording Electronic voting machines.

Yet while computers are very proficient at counting, displaying choices and producing records, we should not rely on computers alone to count votes in public elections. The people who program them make mistakes, and, safeguards aside, they are more vulnerable to manipulation than most people realize. Even an event as common as a power glitch could cause a hard disk to fail or a magnetic card that holds votes to permanently lose its data. The only remedy then: Ask voters to come back to the polls. In a 2003 election in Boone County, Ind., DREs recorded 144,000 votes in one precinct populated with fewer than 6,000 registered voters. Though election officials caught the error, it's easy to imagine a scenario where such mistakes would go undetected until after a victor has been declared.

Consider one simple mode of attack that has already proved effective on a widely used DRE, the Accuvote made by Diebold (nyse: DBD - news - people ). It's called overwriting the boot loader, the software that runs first when the machine is booted up. The boot loader controls which operating system loads, so it is the most security-critical piece of the machine. In overwriting it an attacker can, for example, make the machine count every fifth Republican vote as a Democratic vote, swap the vote outcome at the end of the election or produce a completely fabricated result. To stage this attack, a night janitor at the polling place would need only a few seconds' worth of access to the computer's memory card slot.

Further, an attacker can modify what's known as the ballot definition file on the memory card. The outcome: Votes for two candidates for a particular office are swapped. This attack works by programming the software to recognize the precinct number where the machine is situated. If the attack code limits its execution to precincts that are statistically close but still favor a particular party, it goes unnoticed.

One might argue that one way to prevent this attack is to randomize the precinct numbers inside the software. But that's an argument made in hindsight. If the defense against the attack is not built into the voting system, the attack will work, and there are virtually limitless ways to attack a system. And let's not count on hiring 24-hour security guards to protect voting machines.

DREs have a transparency problem: You can't easily discover if they've been tinkered with. It's one thing to suspect that officials have miscounted hanging chads but something else entirely for people to wonder whether a corrupt programmer working behind the scenes has rigged a computer to help his side.

My ideal system isn't entirely Luddite. It physically separates the candidate selection process from vote casting. Voters make their selections on a touchscreen machine, but the machine does not tabulate votes. It simply prints out paper ballots with the voters' choices marked. The voters review the paper ballots to make sure the votes have been properly recorded. Then the votes are counted; one way is by running them through an optical scanner. After the polls close, some number of precincts are chosen at random, and the ballots are hand counted and compared with the optical scan totals to make sure they are accurate. The beauty of this system is that it leaves a tangible audit trail. Even the designer of the system cannot cheat if the voters check the printed ballots and if the optical scanners are audited.

Aviel Rubin, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle To Safeguard Democracy In The Age Of Electronic Voting.

 

Noam Chomsky: a great intellectual? a gatekeeper? a shill? Or all three?

 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Even if it were true, which is extremely unlikely, who cares?”


Video of Noam Chomsky answering a question about 9/11 scepticism;

9/11 reloaded

I made a short 9/11 film, check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-izPdng8Ck

Site Work for Wednesday Night

don't you hate it when you work on something for a few hours and when your done you feel you have nothing to show for it? i know i do.. in any event, i spent a bit of time tonight trying to figure out the moderation and voting systems that are out there for drupal.. i've just been playing around with them on my local machine though as the implementation will probably be a bit more complex than the stuff i've been adding to the live site.. i'm guessing at this point that user based voting systems will not be in place at the initial launch - which is fine by me.. my main goals are to get the comments sections user moderated (comments with a 10% or less approval rate will be automatically deleted), and news story submissions user moderated (news stories with a 65% or higher approval rate will be automatically published to the front page).. of course these are just general ideas at the moment, there definately will be a period of fine tuning in the first few weeks after the new site launches.. in any event, i did get a couple of things done asside from the research..

  • setup new feedback pages for submitting news, comments, and contacting individual Team+Members
  • fixed issue where '9/11 Related Music' and '9/11 Related Videos' header buttons weren't working in FireFox

thats really it.. i spent a bit of time also playing around with little icons next to things like 'add comment', 'comments', and the category tags.. it actually looked pretty cool, but the icon for tags would show even if there werent any tags entered.. i'll probably come back to this at some point once all the functionality is in place and i can add some more swank to the layout.. oh, and i also played around a bit with getting the news page (home) to list date headers like on the current site, and to make the archive show an entire month at once.. hopefully these two things can get done tommorrow night.. still gunna plan on doing the switch on saturday morning, my only concern right now is whether the server overhead will be more or less.. we shall see..

Site Work for Monday and Tuesday Night..

Ended up wasting a couple hours having to write a nice letter to someone who screwed up on some wedding stuff I had ordered, only to end up wasting about another hour or so with a glitch in the profiles for the WYSIWYG editor.. but I did get a few things done..

  • WYSIWYG editor now has seperate profiles for Team Members and standard users - keeps users from doing certain things that might cause issues
  • Setup 'tags' site section - Shows a 'tag cloud'.. basically it shows all the tags/categories associated with posts. it isn't much now, but once all 1600+ posts are brought over and tagged it should be quite handy
  • Setup 'quotes' site section and panel - Users can now enter in quotes which after vetting will appear in the 'quotes' section and in the new 'Random Quote' panel.
  • Added a slight color and border to the nodes formatting so that all the posts don't just run together

Here are a few things I got done last night:

  • Fixed favicon not showing
  • Updated footer
  • Fixed issue with relative URLS in panel blocks (i hope)
  • Setup 'events' site section and panel - Users can now enter in upcoming events which after vetting will appear in the 'events' calendar and in the 'Upcoming Events' panel.

I'm definately looking foward to building out a resources section.. Basically allow users to submit flyers, links to buy shirts, books, movies, etc. etc. as well as general information on forms of activism.. Not exactly sure how we're gunna handle this yet.. probably gotta figure out content ratings and moderation a bit better first..