Electronic and Internet Voting (The Threat of Internet Voting in Public Elections)

Posted in Security, Companies, Conferences on May 22, 2012

Google Tech Talk
January 20, 2011

Presented by Dr. David Jefferson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


In the last decade the administration of public elections in the United States has become increasingly computerized, leading to great concern in the security community about the security, reliability, privacy, and auditability of electronic voting systems. Although in the last few years there has been substantial progress, against great resistance, in raising the consciousness of state officials about the security vulnerabilities associated with computerized voting, recently the idea of Internet voting, i.e. using private computers or other devices to cast electronic ballots that are transported over the Internet has become increasingly attractive to legislators and election officials.

In this talk we argue that Internet voting is much more dangerous than other forms of electronic voting because of the possibility that anyone on Earth, including a foreign nation state, can attack an Internet election from a remote position of safety, and with the possibility of changing the election outcome without ever being discovered. The number of attack modes is enormous, and the prospects for defense extremely weak.

Last October the District of Columbia fielded an Internet voting system for an open test, allowing anyone to try it out or attempt to attack it. This test was to be the final hurdle before the system was put to use in the 2010 general election in November. The result could not have been a more dramatic demonstration of the fragility and vulnerability of such systems, and the dangers they pose to national security.

Dr. David Jefferson is an internationally recognized expert on voting systems and election technology. He has been a pioneer in research at the intersection of computing, the Internet, and elections for 15 years, and has been an advisor to five successive Secretaries of State of California on technology-related issues. He is a current member and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the California Voter Foundation (www.calvoter.org) and current Chairman of the Board for Verified Voting (www.verifiedvoting.org), two nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations devoted to promoting open, verifiable election technology. He is also a member of the Board of Advisers of ACCURATE (accurate-voting.org), an NSF-sponsored academic research project on voting technology.

For over a decade he has been an active critic of the use of Internet for voting in public elections. In 1999-2000 he was chair of the technical committee of the CA Secretary of State's Task Force on Internet Voting whose report recommended not developing an Internet voting system in California. In 2004 he coauthored a paper with Avi Rubin, Barbara Simons, and David Wagner (servesecurityreport.org) the led to the cancellation of a $22 million DoD project on Internet voting. He continues speaking and writing on the subject at every opportunity today.

Jefferson received a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1980. From 1980 to 1994 he was a computer science professor, first at USC and then at UCLA, where he conducted research in parallel computation, simulation, genetic algorithms, and artificial life. In 1990 he received an R&D 100 Award for leading one of the top 100 research and development projects in the United States. He is known for being the co-inventor of the Time Warp method of parallel discrete event simulation, and is the author of one of the most cited papers in computer science, Virtual Time. He is currently a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he leads research in cyber security and simulation for national security applications.

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