|By Dennis Vadura||
|September 27, 2004 12:00 AM EDT||
From the start it seemed obvious. In building an electronic voting system (known to the industry as a DRE, or Direct Recording Electronic), you must follow four key principles:
- Do not change the social contract with the voter.
- Design it as a voting appliance, not a voting computer system.
- Ensure that the system is secure, reliable, and tamper resistant.
- Keep it flexible yet simple.
The Social Contract with the VoterThis is the founding design principle of the AccuPoll voting system. What we mean by "the social contract with the voter" is the notion that the system should record the intent of the voter, provide the voter with a confirmation that it has correctly recorded his or her intent, and allow that confirmation to be used as an audit trail in the event there is an issue with the electronic results. By doing this you get the benefit of electronic voting (i.e., immediate results, multilingual support, support for voters who are blind or otherwise challenged to vote in privacy) with the benefit of the long-standing practice of having an independent voter-verified audit trail of every vote cast. This meant that the only practical solution was a voting machine that can print a paper record as part of each voter's voting experience. The record is verified by the voter and, if correct, deposited in a ballot box before the voter leaves the polling place. If it's not correct, the voter has a chance to spoil the paper record and any accompanying electronic records and revote.
What this means from a system perspective is that any implementation of the in-precinct voting system must have printing capability, networking between the voting stations, an administrative console that is used to administer the election, and redundancy to allow the reprinting of paper records in the event that equipment on one voting station fails. For reasons of security, flexibility, and cost, Linux was the obvious choice as the implementation platform to help fulfill the contract with the voter.
The Voting ApplianceTo build a reliable and trusted voting appliance using COTS hardware and open source system software you need a reliable, trusted, predictable, and secure operating environment. The design called for the voting machine to be an appliance, not a computing system. This meant self-discovery of services and of available peers, startup that is as simple as flipping a switch, and shutdown that is as complex as pulling the plug. To achieve this goal, the AccuPoll voting application runs within a carefully configured Red Hat distribution, on top of a partitioned ReiserFS file system.
All unnecessary services are disabled and startup is tuned to occur as quickly as possible. Reiser was chosen over ext3 for journaling because the journalled ext3 system would not last for more than a few days of abrupt shutdowns. This is critical from an appliance perspective because election workers should not be expected to follow a more complex shutdown procedure all the time.
Data loss was also a primary concern for our design. Thus, all election results are stored in a transactional database and are mirrored to flash on each voting station. To further guarantee system integrity, the system disk is partitioned into a set of system and application-specific partitions, thereby limiting the impact of incomplete writes across power failures and ensuring that application misbehavior does not prevent the system from booting. With these design choices we have been able to minimize the administrative burden of a complex voting application, that is, for all practical purposes running in a nontrivial distributed computing environment.
Security, Reliability, and Tamper ResistancePerhaps the most important topic aside from the verifiability of elections is the security and, by inference, the accuracy of the voting systems. Security implies everything from the hardware to the software. By using Linux and COTS hardware, the AccuPoll system strikes a practical balance that provides a secure voting system (data is stored in a relational database with real access rights and not a simple flat file in an unprotected file system), with reasonable measures to prevent and, at a minimum, detect tampering. The system is configured to have no login consoles, with password-protected bios and grub boot sequences. The voting system does not run as root, thus the "root" user cannot log in. All events in the system are logged. All nonessential services are disabled and the in-kernel firewall is used to prevent unauthorized port access.
At the application layer we use Java as the implementation language of choice. By choosing Java we obtain all the benefits of its secure and sandboxed execution environment together with its support for cryptography and code verifiability. We therefore ensure that we run only signed executables that have been verified. The built-in cryptography support along with that of PGP allows us to produce election CDs and election result CDs that are verifiably correct, unchanged, and come from the correct source.
Flexible and SimpleAs some would say, "In the United States there are 50 states and 50 different ways to run elections." While that's not completely true, election systems are clearly nonuniform from state to state. There are some very fine nuances that ensure you must build flexibility into the system. We use XML to provide the maximum flexibility with the least number of code changes. XML is used in two very different ways. The first is the XML behavior specification that is used to provide the presentation layer that the voter sees. This specification defines the look and feel of the interface, the actions on button press, and all aspects of the voting experience. The second XML specification defines all aspects of an election (i.e., candidate names and contests as well as the mapping of contests to precincts and polling places). By adopting this design, the AccuPoll system now supports election law in all 50 states and is able to make even significant interface changes with minimal impact on the underlying code base.
Why Linux Is the Right SolutionFrom the outset Linux was the obvious platform choice. It has the flexibility to disable all nonessential services and a firewall on each device to ensure only critically needed ports are open. It provides out-of-the-box networked printing, if needed. It has full Java support with predictable behavior and performance (in an unrelated project we experienced much different behavior and performance profiles when a Java application was run under different releases of Windows). Finally, as an optimization step we saw the possibility to migrate to an embedded Linux solution at some point in the future. This will further reduce costs and allow us to run the system on a smaller hardware footprint. Finally (as is sadly still the case), when we first designed the system, the Windows environment was rife with various attacks. We determined that the risk of deploying a Windows solution with all its clear vulnerabilities was greater than deploying a Linux solution with some unknowns. Two years later we are happy to report that we made the right choice.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 439
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
Sep. 1, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 137
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 1, 2015 01:00 PM EDT
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 1, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 478
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 1, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 912
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Sep. 1, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 250
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 675
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 323
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 292
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 1, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 242
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EDT
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 181
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 169
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Sep. 1, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 467
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Aug. 31, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 381
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 31, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 429
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 203
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 560
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 493