In researching my Scientific American column about the dismal prospects for online voting, I interviewed Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, technical director of Johns Hopkins’s Information Security Institute, and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting. He’s been deeply immersed in the research surrounding electronic voting for decades. Since I have more room on the Web than I do on the printed page, I would like to share more of our conversation here.
David Pogue: Are there any steps that would make you, a security researcher, comfortable with electronic voting?
Avi Rubin: In principle, I think that paper ballots are far superior to electronic voting machines. Even if the machines are high quality (and none of the current ones on the market have proven to be that), the inability to manually recount, to audit, and to prevent rigging and the potential for widespread, wholesale fraud are deal breakers for purely electronic voting. Paper ballots are not a panacea, but without them there is an opportunity for fraud that is much more widespread.
DP: What if the software in these machines is open source and can be inspected publicly?
AR: Just because software is open source does not mean that it will be subjected to many eyeballs. Voting machine software should most definitely be made publicly available, but we need to realize that it may still have security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have an assurance the actual bits that are running inside of a voting machine on election day match the software that was publicly available.
Full Article: The Challenges of Digital Voting – Scientific American.