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[liberationtech] Looking for collaborators for free-range voting project at Knight News Challenge:

Rich Kulawiec rsk at
Tue Feb 26 04:35:22 PST 2013

It won't work.  Until the bot/zombie is solved, online voting is
a non-starter, since any election worthy of being stolen can be.
It doesn't matter what you do on the server side: you can construct as
elaborate and clever and secure an infrastructure as you wish...because
on the client side, there is no way to ensure that what the user sees
is what's actually happening.  (After all: it's not *their* computer
any more.  Its new owners can, if they wish, cause a vote for candidate
A to be sent as a vote for candidate B, and they can prevent the user
from knowing that's happened.)

And given that (a) we're now about a decade into the zombie problem
(b) no significant effort against them has ever been attempted,
let alone completed [1] and (c) the problem is already epidemic and
continues to get worse [2] [3], there is no reason whatsoever to think
it will be mitigated, let alone solved, in the forseeable future.

This doesn't just apply to your proposal: it applies to *all* of
them.  Unless you can propose and execute a viable plan for solving
the zombie problem, then whatever you design/build can be undercut
whenever someone chooses to make the effort.  (And provided they're
not foolishly heavy-handed about it, it's unlikely you would be able
to detect this. [4])


[1] Botnet "takedowns" are unimportant and irrelevant; their only
purpose is to provide a forum for the spokesliars at Microsoft
to trumpet their prowess while a gullible press and public overlook
that they *created* this problem.  Merely removing C&C networks does
nothing to remediate the individual members of the botnets, which are
still compromised, still vulnerable, and likely to be conscripted into
other botnets before the day is out.

[2] We're now seeing portable devices zombie'd: phones, tablets, etc.

[3] Estimates of zombie population vary, of course, but clearly, any
estimate under 100M should be laughed out of the room.  Vint Cerf gave
an estimate of 150M just about six years ago, and based on my own work
as well as that of others in the anti-spam/abuse area, I thought that
was on the high side at the time...but it's most certainly not now.
I think the number's probably in the 200-300M range at this point.
See: for
Cerf's comments.

[4] See Schneier's insightful and chilling piece on this here:

That piece should be absolutely mandatory reading for anyone even
considering voting systems.  It not only provides a method for
estimating attacker budgets, but it correctly points out that attackers
quite often could tip the balance of an election by manipulating a
rather small number of votes -- with a corresponding reduction in the
probability that the manipulation will be detected.

Note that Schneier wrote that in 2004.  If you repeat his analysis
with numbers from the 2012 election cycle you'll end up with *much*
large attacker budgets.  For example, Schneier says that in 2002,
Congressional candidates raised over 500M.  But

says that in 2012, they spent about $1.82B.

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