The local government of the District of Columbia has been conducting a pilot project to test an internet-based voting system that would give overseas and military voters a way to download and submit absentee ballots online. Here's a PDF of the system architecture. Before using the system in a real voting process, the public was invited to evaluate its security and usability. That's where J. Alex Halderman of Freedom to Tinker comes in:
This is exactly the kind of open, public testing that many of us in the e-voting security community — including me — have been encouraging vendors and municipalities to conduct. So I was glad to participate, even though the test was launched with only three days' notice. I assembled a team from the University of Michigan, including my students, Eric Wustrow and Scott Wolchok, and Dawn Isabel, a member of the University of Michigan technical staff.
Within 36 hours of the system going live, our team had found and exploited a vulnerability that gave us almost total control of the server software, including the ability to change votes and reveal voters' secret ballots. In this post, I'll describe what we did, how we did it, and what it means for Internet voting.
An awful lot of meaty details follow, but here's the punchline:
Based on this experience and other results from the public tests, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has announced that they will not proceed with a live deployment of electronic ballot return at this time, though they plan to continue to develop the system. Voters will still be able to download and print ballots to return by mail, which seems a lot less risky.
Oh, diva snap.