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Sunday, October 19, 2008

machines don't fail, people fail

There is this charming myth that machines are "reliable" and "correct" whereas people are error-prone. (The above post title is me being sarcastic.)

This will be shown to be totally false when, on election day, a percentage of the millions of voting machines fail in the following ways:

* mechanical failure
* touch screen misaligned
* touch screen doesn't work at all
* display screen fails (black screen)
* power fails
* printer fails
* card reader fails
* software error

If they were using Internet voting, the ways in which things could fail would be even more spectacular:

* computer monitor fails
* computer hard drive fails
* mouse not working
* keyboard error
* power fails
* network card fails
* router fails
* connection to ISP fails
* network attack or denial of service
* ISP hardware or software fails
* network transmission error
* voting software error
* central voting servers fail
* air conditioning in central voting server room fails
* power fails in central voting server room
* network fails in central voting server room
* server room catches fire (this happens more often than you might think)

Note that all of the above is just a sample of what WILL happen (the odds of a hard drive failing eventually are 100%) and none of the above require any malicious activity, just normal failures of systems. When you add in malicious activity, the scenarios get much, much worse.

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