On Wed, May 05, 2004 at 11:49:23AM +0100, Bryan O'Donoghue wrote:
> Unless you've compiled it from source *and* verified the source code
> yourself, before doing that, there is always a chance somebody has
> introduced a backdoor or another facility to compromise the system.
Indeed, ultimately one must trust the hardware on which it is run,
however there are prior examples of security-senstivie government
procurred hardware being backdoored by security agencies prior to
delivery. The Dept of Communications encryption equipment bought from
the Swiss company Crypto AG and which was in use here for 7 years had a
backdoor courtesy of the NSA, for example.
There is no security argument that the code for the election system must
be open source, however there are good reasons why the code should be
available for public inspection. The source-code for the counting system
is the de-facto, legally binding, mechanism for counting our votes, this
should be a matter of public record - no matter what. It is
inapprorpriate that such a critical part of our constitutional democracy
be hidden from scrutiny.
This scrutiny would help guard against coding errors but it is unlikely
to play a role in detecting tampering (though would discourage some,
limited, means of tampering).
It's important to note that this is just an argument for publishing the
code, no reason at all why the vendor can't still license it
The only argument for Open Sourcing is a more general one, completely
external to the E-voting issue; that publicly procurred software, paid
for with public money, should always be available for the public to then
use as they see fit - after all, we paid for it - it should be our
property. But that's a more general cause.
> Perhaps what we really need is the ability to view and recompile (if
> applicable) /install 'as necessary' the source code for the system.
What we really need is a Voter-verified audit trail, the only means
of solving the problem. Once we have a simple, immutable, voter-verified
and tamper-evident record of the votes it becomes possible to trust
the veracity of the system. Anything else is a waste of time.
Once a record exists, external to and influencable by the system itself
then we are in a position to verify its accuracy.
Colm MacCárthaigh Public Key: colm+pgp at stdlib.net
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