At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Friday, September 22, 2006

On the Cover of the "Rolling Stone"

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has written an article for the October 5th, 2006 issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine, entitled "Will The Next Election Be Hacked?" In the article, he tells the story of Chris Hood, a former Diebold consultant who, along with other Diebold workers, installed a last minute patch before the 2002 election in Georgia. Here's an interesting quote:
Then, one muggy day in mid-August, Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a "patch," a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. "We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do," Hood says. "The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done."
While Hood's story is the most detailed account of problems with electronic voting machines, there is some scary stuff about machines from the other 3 voting machine vendors and the companies' political ties. RFK, Jr.'s article puts together a number of frightening pieces to the current puzzle that is electronic voting in the United States. The only "good" thing I saw in the whole article was a reference to Ed Felten's recent work:
In a study released on September 13th, computer scientists at Princeton University created vote-stealing software that can be injected into a Diebold machine in as little as a minute, obscuring all evidence of its presence. They also created a virus that can "infect" other units in a voting system, committing "widespread fraud" from a single machine. Within sixty seconds, a lone hacker can own an election.
You can read more about Felten's work on this as well as other interesting stuff on electronic voting in his Freedom To Tinker blog.

In my opinion, the "Rolling Stone" article brings to light a number of things that every US citizen should be concerned about. Unfortunately, I feel that the reality of the situation is that only people with certain political leanings will take the article to heart. The rest of the nation won't be concerned until somebody from the "other side of the aisle" either writes a similar article or starts pushing legislation to fix this mess.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine

Ed Felten (author of the Freedom To Tinker blog, among other things) has released an analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine. Here's a short quote from the abstract:

This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks.

UPDATE: I thought it might be nice to tell Rush Holt, my congressional representative, about this, just in case he doesn't get the Freedom To Tinker RSS feed. :-) I found the timing interesting when I saw that yesterday he had released a statement about the Maryland and D. C. elections. Don't they use Diebold machines?

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Weather on Your Calendar

My office-mate just turned me on to something that I find has been available at least since June 2006 (from what I've seen in a few blog posts).

If you've ever wanted to know what the weather was going to be like when you were scheduling an event, it's actually very easy. Just go to the Weather Underground page and enter your ZIP code, Airport code, or some other such identifying information in the search box in the upper-left corner of the page and hit ENTER. On the right side of the page, across from the locality name, is a button labelled "ICS." Copy the link location for that button, and use it as the URL for a remote calendar.

If you are using iCal, go to Calendar->Subscribe... in the menu bar and paste in the URL in the dialog box that pops up. If you are using Google Calendar, go to "Manage Calendars" and select "Add calendar" in the Other Calendars section. Select "Public Calendar Address," paste the URL into the box, and click on "Add."

As an example, here is the URL I got from the Weather Underground for Pennington, NJ:

This worked just fine for me in iCal but, unfortunately, when I tried it in Google Calendar, Google was unable to import the calendar info. Sigh.... Of course, YMMV!

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Geocaching: First Time Out

Yesterday, Randee, Mark, and I tried our hands at geocaching. We set up an account at and then did a search for caches in our area. Surprisingly, we found quite a few, 4 of which were in fairly easy walking distance. We chose one in the center of town, put the leash on the dog, grabbed the GPS and headed off. The particular cache we were headed for was "The Redcoats Were Here, The Redcoats Were Here!!" This multi-cache required us to first find a plaque and then use information from the plaque to derive the location of the actual cache.

It took us about 10 minutes to walk from our house to the plaque. As instructed, we did a little math and figured out where we needed to go next. We went there and started nosing around where we knew the cache had to be. It turns out the we all pretty much looked right at it a few times without actually seeing it. Finally, Mark found the cache (a small brown bottle) and we opened it up to take a look at the log inside. There was a list of dates and names, most of which we didn't recognize. However, Mark recognized the names of a few of his school-mates, which was pretty cool. We added the date and our name to the log and put the cache back in its hiding place.

After our success with the first cache, Mark and I decided to try finding a second cache in town. Unfortunately, we weren't quite as successful with this one. After we got home, I realized that the name, "Base-ic Instinct" was the clue we actually needed to find the cache. Mark wanted to go out today to find it, but it rained all day, so we're hoping to give it a go tomorrow....

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