My friend Alex Halderman is now after bigger fish than copy-”protected” music CD’s. Watch this video, in which he, Ed Felten, and Ariel Feldman demonstrate how to rig a Diebold voting machine (and also watch Alex show off his lock-picking skills). Reading the group’s paper, one becomes painfully aware of a yawning cultural divide between nerds and the rest of the world. Within the nerd universe, that voting machines need to have a verifiable paper trail, that they need to be open to inspection by researchers, etc., are points so obvious as to be scarcely worth stating. If a company (Diebold) refuses to take these most trivial of precautions, then even without a demonstration of the sort Alex et al. provide, the presumption must be that their machines are insecure. Now Alex et al. are trying to take what’s obvious to nerds into a universe — local election boards, the courts, etc. — that operates by entirely different rules. Within this other universe, the burden is not on Diebold to prove its voting machines are secure; it’s on Alex et al. to prove they’re insecure. And even if they do prove they’re insecure — well, if it weren’t for those pesky researchers telling the bad guys how to cheat, what would we have to worry about?
So, how does one bridge this divide? How does one explain the obvious to those who, were they capable of understanding it, would presumably have understood it already? I wish I had an easy answer, but I fear there’s nothing to do but what Alex, Ed, and Ariel are doing already — namely, fight with everything you’ve got.