Finding Bugs and Counting Votes

Fortify Software offers states free copies of its source code analysis tool to check e-voting systems, but some bugs could still slip by

5:00 PM -- Fortify Software announced yesterday that it is offering its Fortify Static Code Analysis (SCA) tool for free to each state to check the security of its electronic voting systems.

"We’re donating our products to states so they can find places where their machines’ software is vulnerable to attack,” said John M. Jack, Fortify’s CEO. "These coding mistakes open the door for a malicious voter or polling location volunteer to change your vote or even cast multiple votes; corrupting an election could be as easy as inserting a carefully programmed cartridge or a bogus ballot into the machine."

While the threats against e-voting machines are very real, they aren’t the only threats that can cause problems in an election. Simple programming errors that cause miscounts are of a concern, too, and I know of a first-hand account of such a problem: While voting here in Florida this week, one of my co-workers noticed that the counter on the e-voting machine didn't increase after he inserted his ballot. When he complained, the local supervisor said they’d investigate, so he waited to see what had happened. The local support staff opened the machine, counted the ballots, and found that the counts didn't match up. He was told to come back at 7:30 p.m. to request that the ballots be manually counted.

So what happens in other locations where voters may not have been so observant?

I sincerely hope that states will take Fortify up on its offer. It will be interesting to see which states decide not to. Based on how emotional voters can be (at least the ones I know), it would be in the state’s best interest to sign up, whether they use the software or not.

It is worth noting, though, that source code analysis products like Fortify’s SCA may work really well and find numerous vulnerabilities, but they are not foolproof. Why bring that up? Well, I live and work in a state that already had its machines audited by SCA (according to the press release), yet my co-worker still noticed the ballot-count problem.

– John H. Sawyer is a security geek on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. He enjoys taking long war walks on the beach and riding pwnies. When he's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading

  • Fortify Software Inc.