Monday, January 11, 2010

Wholesale election cheating?

I am voicing this concern over the use of nationwide automated election system (AES) in the coming May 10 2010 local and national elections.
It is susceptible or vulnerable to election cheating.
I am not saying there will be cheating.
I am saying the possibility is there.
One of the main concerns is that the private foreign firm that supplies the election machines, Smartmatic will have access capabilities to the election data derived in the elections, including the results of the voting.
We cannot afford to let a foreign entity have the capability to access, much less, possibly alter election data, including the results of the elections.
With this frightening scenario, we are virtually surrendering the integrity of the core of our democratic rights ---the right of suffrage.
The coming national elections, will be highly technical because it will be already using machines to count the votes.
Its no longer manual or “tally-tally” and “kahon-kahon”
Yet no matter how technical this electoral system may be, we must be familiar with how it is going to be operationalized.
I must admit, I am ignorant of many facets of this “new” electoral system.
But let us not shy, but take courage to know, and to educate ourselves.
The worst thing we can do as Filipinos is to sport a blind trust and cast a risky reliance in our government institutions.

Danger: Access to Passwords.

The coming automated elections will make use of what we commonly know as “passwords.”
For our discussion, let us avoid technical terms because we are laymen.
The Board of election inspectors will be given passwords and “keys” to operate the election counting machines on election day.
The problem is that Smartmatic will know all of the passwords of all board of election inspectors for all the election machines all over the country.
Smartmatic will manage and control the “directory” of passwords for all these machines.
I shiver at this thought.
Why will Smartmatic, a private foreign entity, which is not even a government agency, have password access to the data generated by the votes of Filipinos?

Let us have an analogy.
If you have an ATM card, you very well know that you have a password to access your bank account.
You alone, the account owner and depositor, control this password.
You alone, are the one who has knowledge of your own password.
Not even the bank will know your password.
As a matter of fact, when you open an ATM account, the bank will give you a temporary password.
But you will immediately be instructed to go to an ATM machine and change your password of your own choice.
Would you be comfortable if the bank will also know your password?
Will you be able to sleep at night, aware that there is somebody else--- the bank, the operator of the ATM machine--- who also knows your password and can gain access to your bank account?

Another analogy would be your email account.
If you have an email account, you will definitely have a password.
Only you will have knowledge of this password.
You do not let anybody else know this password.
Otherwise, somebody may just access into your email account.

The same thing with the election machines.
The Board of Election inspectors must generate their own passwords.
Some see this as safeguard against possible wholesale election cheating.

What is the use of giving the election inspectors passwords if it is shared by somebody else---Smartmatic?
Smartmatic must not have shared knowledge of the passwords.
Otherwise, Smartmatic will have the capability to have access, and even possibly change the data derived from the voting of the machines.

Pablo Manalastas, Phd IT consultant reports in the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) that “the COMELEC has ruled that it is SMARTMATIC who will designate who should control or manage the Certification Authority (CA) of the election canvassing and transmission systems.”

In technical terms, a Certificate of Authority is the directory of passwords, and the users who are authorized to hold or keep the public and private keys.

“In effect, we now have a foreign entity that will have full control of a process that is at the heart of our national security” Manalastas comments.

What about you?
Would you be comfortable if Smartmatic invents, controls and manages the passwords to the election machines?

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