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D.c. Hacking Raises Questions About Future of Online Voting

By Stateline.org

October 25, 2010

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Washington, D.C.'s failure to prevent a team of University of Michigan computer scientists from taking control of its online voting website has called into the question the future of electronic voting. Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman noted that his team had taken complete control over the elections board's server.

Although some experts say the incident proves that the Internet, in its current state, cannot support secure online voting, others still see potential in the technology. For example, Arizona and eight counties in West Virginia are planning to go ahead with online voting experiments on November 2. "All an attacker has to find is one hole in a system to mount a serious attack," warns University of California, Berkeley researcher Joe Hall.

Washington D.C. used a system based on open source software, believing that it provides the transparency necessary for elections. The West Virginia counties are using proprietary software that officials say should be more resistant to hackers.

Rokey Suleman, executive director of the D.C. board of elections, says the hacking incident is an opportunity to improve the technology. "We are not disappointed that this occurred," Suleman says. "It is an opportunity for the computer science community to work with us."

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