Author Archives: Rob Wipond

Elections Ontario Releases Damning Report on Internet Voting

Elections Ontario’s “Alternative Voting Technologies Report” released today tries to put an optimistic face on things — e.g. expressing hope that a unique, enforced, province-wide government-issued ID card could help solve some of the problems — but generally they admit that online voting is too risky. A few quotes from their rundown of other jurisdictions:

“In an April 2013 report on compliance with the voting process, Elections Canada indicated that “current Internet voting systems carry with them serious, valid concerns about system security, user authentication, adequate procedural transparency, and preserving the secrecy of the vote.””

“In 2010, Washington D.C.’s internet voting pilot project was compromised by a group of four University of Michigan professors and students who, within 48 hours of the system going live, gained near complete control of the election server. The students and professors were able to successfully change every vote and reveal almost every secret ballot. Election officials did not detect the breach for nearly two business days.”

“In 2000, the U.S. Military implemented a pilot project to evaluate an internet voting implementation. A total of 84 votes were cast, and the cost was approximately $62 million dollars. It was considered to have failed to address numerous key security issues. The program was intended to continue in 2004, but a report analyzing the security of the system indicated that there remained a significant number of vulnerabilities. As a result, the project was cancelled with unresolved security issues cited as the primary cause.”

“Under the Help America Vote Act, the U.S. Department of Defense had been researching and analyzing plans for potential internet voting possibilities. In 2012, plans for internet voting by overseas military personnel were cancelled after a security team audited their $22 million system and found it to be vulnerable to cyber?attacks.”

The report also reviews the 2012 online voting in the elections in Halifax Regional Municipality, and it is evident that even Elections Ontario was not informed by the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre or HRM that there had been significant security concerns flagged during the election period. It’s this frequent lack of honesty surrounding online voting which is most concerning — they become elections whose fairness is based entirely too much on blind trust.

Halifax Election Security — the Story and Documents

I went on CBC radio in Halifax to discuss concerns about the security of their online election, and then was stunned to hear how an elections official went on the next day to patently dismiss all concerns. Consequently, security researcher Kevin McArthur has gone public with some of the background story, and some of the evidence, surrounding my recent video about the security vulnerabilities in the Halifax election.

I’m also posting the documents I obtained from the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre featured in the video: Public Safety disclosure halifax election A-2013-00029

Note that Kevin has posted some of the unredacted documents he submitted to CCIRC — very interesting, and the basics are understandable even to non-technical people.

I think the most interesting and important aspect of all this, though, is how it highlights the way the security of internet voting is so complex that the average person can only choose whether to believe any particular expert or authority or not. Why would we want to turn our elections into processes that are so complicated that we’re then requiring people just to accept on faith that they are fair and valid? It’s fundamentally undemocratic. Paper ballots, properly tracked and audited, work great and are easy to understand.

Elderly Woman Still Hiding from VIHA

An update on Mia following her narrow escape from involuntary electroshock therapy

Eight months after an independent tribunal ordered her released from hospital, the Vancouver Island Health Authority is still pursuing a Saanich woman. Focus previously reported on 82-year-old Mia (“The Case for Electroshocking Mia,” November 2012), whom VIHA senior geriatric psychiatrist Dr Michael Cooper had slotted for electro-convulsive shock therapy against the wishes of her and her family. Last July, an official inquiry determined Mia needn’t be forcibly treated for depression nor even hospitalized; however, almost immediately VIHA representatives began calling, coming by the family home, and demanding that Mia check in with them. Mia, her granddaughter Michelle and grandson-in-law Russel and their children fled the city.

They’d hoped they could have quietly returned to their normal lives by now, but in March, VIHA sent a letter to Mia’s lawyer demanding “evidence” of Mia’s exact current location and that she’s undergoing “treatment of her medical conditions.” Otherwise, continues the letter, “VIHA will need access to [Mia].” Read the rest at Focus online.

Numbers Guy Speaks Out

Former federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page exhorts Canadians to “wake up.”

Parliamentary institutions that bolster Canadian democracy “are under attack right now like I’ve never seen them before in my 35 years of public service.” The warning had a particularly sharp sting coming from recently departed federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. Brought to UVic by the Green Party, Page was speaking to a packed lecture hall in April. No partisan firebrand, Page is just a lifelong bureaucrat and self-described “numbers guy” who became increasingly frustrated, then appalled, and then positively worried witnessing important national financial decisions being made “based on ideology alone” and without accountability to anyone. Read the rest at Focus online.

Is the Law Catching Up to BC’s Police Chiefs?

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Registrar of Lobbyists are hot on their association’s trail. But a former BC police chief and solicitor general doubts they’ll ever be caught.

There’s one thing the police tell you never to do when they want to question you, right? Run. Running makes you look even more suspicious. So why do British Columbia’s chiefs of police keep running from me? Fortunately, I’ve gained some high-profile help in this now year-long chase. Read the rest at Focus online.