There are so many disturbing aspects to the special election happening in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, the election runs on Microsoft Server 2000. That is not a typo. “That’s a crap system,” said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa in a phone interview; adding that the database in use, Microsoft Access is a “toy database” that should never be used for industrial applications. Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron acknowledged in testimony on the troubled first round of the election, that the system is “inflexible.” But delving into his testimony further, and speaking to both local and national computer experts it’s evident that the results of the first round of the election on April 18th are legitimately suspect and that no election running on this type of computer system can be verified as accurate.
… The data breach was reportedly from a security researcher “who is believed to have contacted the center at least twice — including once prior to last year’s presidential election — to notify them of the server’s vulnerabilities and apparently draw attention to them.” Professor Jones, who served on the Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee for four years, commented that the KSU hack indicates there are “people at the top level who don’t understand security.”
The machine in use in Georgia is the AccuVote TS. In 2006 two Princeton grad students designed a computer virus on this machine that can steal votes from one candidate and move them to another candidate. The virus passes from machine to machine in the course of normal election procedures. It does not require access to the Internet to work. Professor Jones said he did not know if that security issue had been repaired, but that he would not trust assurances from the vendor that it had.
Does Jones believe the results of the election? He says they probably reflect reality, but adds, “I have no confidence that that’s the case.” If he was a hacker he would change the results by creating exactly the type of scenario that unfolded on election night. “I would slip the wrong memory cartridge in and cause them to have to back track, and while they were backtracking and fumbling and rescanning cartridges, I would slip in a ringer.” He summarizes by saying of the machines, “It’s time to retire them. It was time to retire them ten years ago.”