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Supposition: CIA voter fraud detection software turned on US systems, possibly as test, inadvertently discovering fraud



After reviewing all data in context, my supposition is that CIA voter fraud detection software assets were turned on US systems, possibly as a test. Inadvertently fraud was discovered; fraud which the agency has not reported, and/or cannot report through regular channels.


We now know that federal assets have committed widespread surveillance of US data, voice and email traffic without subpoenas. Why, in the same period of permissibility, would a well intentioned agency not surveil voter data, especially if it was under external assault.


If the agency did so, no reader should think that this analyst finds fault with such actions. Our various electronic voter mechanisms are fraught with obvious threat vectors that cry out for discovery, identification and resolution. One only has to read Stephen Spoonamore's comments in GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election. Writing of this item in private email, I noted, "Spoonamore is an extremely capable fellow. I would accord his comments high validity, more so by virtue of his conservative leanings. Regardless of which side of the aisle you sit, it bears reading." See other items in the bibliography at end.


The flaws in US electronic voting are so great that the US needs a public Black Hat hacking conference that targets US voting systems, exposing their flaws, before exploitation by criminal or adversary state assets.


A helpful if tortured causal description


A certain Steven Stigall recently spoke before (as opposed to offered sworn testimony before) the Standards Board Meeting of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in Orlando, Florida. Never identifying his organization, his verbatims used verbiage such as "Where I come from...," "worked with others in my organization...," and "did my organization actually discover..." The EAC put paid to his efforts at anonymity by publishing his unclass resume:

Steve Stigall joined CIA in 1985...  His early analytic career focused on Soviet-era Russian strategic missile forces... Since 1995 he has specialized in foreign computer threats.  In 2000 Mr. Stigall was inducted into CIA’s Senior Analytic Service.  In 2002 and 2003 Mr. Stigall served in Afghanistan and was at the US Army’s Camp Doha, Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom...

While Stigall was scrupulous in avoiding any commentary on specific voting machines or their manufacturers, and effectively precluded questions from EAC board members, one does wonder what, if any, hand the agency might have had in surfacing the many Diebold faults (here, here and here). (In pursuing these and other citations, readers should remember that Premier Elections Solutions is merely the renamed Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (DESI).)


Disclaimer and linkage


Modifying Stigall's testimony courtesy of the EAC, first the disclaimer:

[At CIA], we do not do vulnerability assessments of any U.S. systems.  We don’t look at U.S. systems.  What we do is we identify foreign threats to those systems and we relay that information via a variety of mechanisms to the owners and operators of those systems.  Typically, the owners and operators typically, but not always, are going to be the U.S. Government... 

Stigall then turns to a description that to this analyst demands some evaluation of US voter systems:

For several years, I’ve worked with others [at CIA] to try and identify foreign threats, emphasis on “foreign threats,” to important U.S. computer systems.  A few years ago it occurred to us that that should include potential foreign threats to the computers upon which our elections in this country are increasingly dependent. [The] first question in your mind is [did CIA] actually discover any foreign threats to the computers upon which our elections are increasingly dependent?  I’m just going to say this, we’re in an open, unclassified forum, rest assured that were we ever to discover specific and credible information about foreign threats to our critical U.S. election computers we would do in my organization what we’ve done since 1947; we would bring that attention to the most senior policymakers in the country and they would act accordingly.

Rendering political process into an IT regimen


Stigall again:

When I look at an election system, I see a computer system, because increasingly that’s what they are.  And to the extent that there are foreign hackers who have shown interest in developing unauthorized access into U.S. computer systems, that’s where I get interested in it...


[When] I look at a foreign election system I’m not probing it [for] vulnerabilities to attack it, I’m simply looking at it as a computer network to see what vulnerabilities other people might be trying to use to exploit it because that reveals potential vulnerabilities that may be applicable in this country.  Again, when we look at election systems overseas, to the extent that they even have computers, I look at them as a computer network and computer networks have all the vulnerabilities that any computer network has, whether it’s an election system or whatever.  The physical security of the machines has emerged as a big issue.  Long before Election Day who has access to them?  And who programs these machines?  And who has access to that programming?  Again, just old-fashioned physical security long before Election Day.  [There is a] sociological factor of decreasing transparency for some cultures as you introduce computers, I’m not going to presuppose that’s entirely relevant [in the US], but I add it for what it is worth.  [You] create problems for an attacker by encrypting data... 

After consulting with agency political analysts, Stigall designed a corresponding IT vulnerability model that starts “long before Election Day,” to “Election Day and afterwards”: 

I divide an election process in terms of the computer’s role in that process... These don’t all occur on Election Day... [As some ‘follow the money], I follow the vote, and wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer that is an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to get into the system and tamper with the vote count or make bad things happen.

Stigall’s unreleased two page presentation listed five “basic” steps.  After reading his transcript verbatim, I see their constituate components as:

  • Automation/manipulation of census rolls, tax roles, prior voter registration lists, if any
  • Accuracy of random auditing of voting machines
  • Voter registration data security in the run-up to voting matches voting machine security on election day
  • Potential to defeat the paper trail, elimination of paper to electronic comparison
  • Absence of physical or emotional duress to voters
  • Authentication of voter identification at polls
  • Ensuring/sustaining privacy of the vote
  • Denial of service attacks, both conventional IT and physical kinetic denial of service that kills power to voting machines and polling places
  • Voting machine network security; removal and transport of flash drives and dismountable media
  • Capacity to transmit, protect and gather voter data; encryption of data in transit and encryption of “data at rest”
  • Ability to manipulate or channel election night media coverage, incremental, moment by moment

Electronic voter fraud expands and shifts the threat


Stigall again: 

[In] a traditional voting scheme the greatest opportunity for fraud [is] at the local level.  When you introduce computers into the equation, you’re moving that fraud potential upstream and you’re allowing an electronic single point failure, meaning the potential for mischief, can occur higher up the food chain electronically much faster and affect a lot more people in terms of the vote count than would be the case of fraud at an individual level where again you’re talking about the classic scenario where ballot boxes get thrown in the river or fraudulent ballots get produced; here it’s electronic...


The first question that one asks about these voting machines is, are they password protected?  [Strong or weak passwords, security of storage before, during and after the election. Can] those machines can be interrogated electronically remotely on Election Day. [Are there paper ballot receipts; what is the] discrepancy at the end of the day between the machine count and the paper count...

The footprint and opportunity for voter fraud become enormous in electronic systems. Most current monitoring structures are unable to cope. "Monitoring" may well induce a false positive as it will be unable to be present through all the stages the Stigall defines.


Heroes: Churov for what he did, Stigall for what I hope he did


Stigall admiringly describes a Russian step that this analyst greatly hopes was done domestically. 

A few weeks ago the head of the Russian election commission [Vladimir Churov] made an interesting proposal.  He met with representatives of the Russian hacker community.  And I do not know the extent to which this was a representative cross section of Russian hackers, but it was sponsored by Russian magazine, Hacker magazine, which is an interesting publication they have over there. And -- well, Vladimir Churov is my new hero, because he had a very interesting proposal for these people.  He said, "In early March we're going to test a new Internet voting system in Russia.  We're going to test it in five areas and I want you people to come at us, give us your best shot.  We’re not interested in people who want to harm maliciously the system, but if you want to test our system trying to identify new vulnerabilities, you know, we’re going to reward you if you do this."

The US needs a public Black Hat hacking conference targeting US voting systems. There are flaws, that is certain. Better to find them before criminal or adversary state assets exploit them. Agency assets would be welcome, but it is unlikely that they would publicly disclose means and methods to states already, or contemplating, doctoring their voting processes.


Come home, Mr. Stigall, and bring your friends.


Most electronic voting isn't secure, CIA expert says

By Greg Gordon

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Diebold Admits Audit Logs in ALL Versions of Their Software Fail to Record Ballot Deletions

Posted by Dan Gillmor


March 21, 2009 2:55 PM


KY Election Officials Arrested, Charged With 'Changing Votes at E-Voting Machines'

Blogged by Brad Friedman


3/19/2009 4:59PM


Standards Board Briefing Materials: Orlando, Florida

Standards Board Meeting, February 26-27, 2009

Doubletree at the Entrance to Universal Studios

Orlando, Florida


Standards Board Briefing Materials: Orlando, Florida

Meeting Transcripts

February 26, 2009

February 27, 2009


Standards Board of Election Assistance Commission in Re: (Computers And Elections: The Growing Potential For Cyber Vote Fraud)


DATE: February 27, 2009

PLACE: Double Tree Hotel

5780 Major Boulevard

Orlando, Florida 32819


Court Reporter

Notary Public, State of Florida at Large


SOME PRESENTATIONS, though not Stigall’s which is likely FOUO as the meeting did not appear to have classified briefings:


A Threat Analysis on UOCAVA Voting Systems Overview

Lynne S. Rosenthal

NIST Voting Program

National Institute of Standards and Technology


Computers and Elections: The Growing Potential for Cyber Vote Fraud


Stub for Stigall's presentation


Glitches, machine breakdowns hamper voting in five states

By Greg Gordon

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Computer expert denies knowledge of '04 vote rigging in Ohio

By Greg Gordon

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Monday, November 3, 2008


E-voting worries linger as Election Day nears

Posted by Declan McCullagh

November 3, 2008 4:00 AM PST


Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure

By Greg Gordon

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008


Did Washington waste millions on faulty voting machines?

By Greg Gordon

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on August 15, 2008


GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

The Raw Story

Published: July 18, 2008


Diebold insider alleges company plagued by technical woes, Diebold defends 'sterling' record

Miriam Raftery

The Raw Story

Originally published on Tuesday December 6, 2005


Democratization and Globalization in Emerging Market Countries: An Econometric Study*

Jude C. Hays, John R. Freeman, Hans Nesseth

University of Michigan, University of Minnesota

International Studies Quarterly, Volume 47, Number 2, pp. 203228, June, 2003


Gordon Housworth

Cybersecurity Public  InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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