Australia’s Election plagued by hackers!

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26Aug2010

Australia’s Election plagued by hackers!

  • By Andrew Garrett
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Imagine that headline!

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We decided to avoid it – our technology upgrades to the electoral process don’t involve any WAN type networking (but there was a bit of LAN stuff in yesterday’s post).

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guywithbook.jpgTo summarise: Finding a way to connect 8642 polling locations back to a central point, ad-hoc, wirelessly (I can’t even start to imagine the cost of setting up that many wired locations for a single weekend), in a reliable manner that works amidst the bright lights of the city as well as in in the deepest, hottest depths of the Northern Territory, is 100% secure, and equally reliable? A nightmare – plain and simple.

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Connectivity is a huge issue – wireless connections would be the only answer, and mobile telecommunication technology isn’t yet at the point where it can provide a consistently reliable connection that persists for 10+ hours, even in the heart of a major city. In the outback? You’re laughing now, right?

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Even if you do manage to get pure connectivity issues solved, you’re likely to need some sort of VPN to secure the data in transit – and I shudder to think of the cost of a VPN endpoint that could handle 8642 simultaneous connections.

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Even a VPN endpoint would be a target for every wanna-be hacker in the country (and probably a couple of hundred from outside as well) – if we attempted to secure things another way, there’d be even more attempts, and probably a few successes. Of course, these risks can all be reduced, but on top of the fiscal outlay for increased security, there’s another price that goes with it. If you increase security, you invariably sacrifice usability, which means another increase in training costs for the end users.

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At the data collection end, you’d need multiple hot spares of every layer in the whole stack, automated failover between multiple load balanced servers. Oh, and a lot more custom application programming, and a whole heap more training for the users at the voting booths as well, since they’d need to be able to be (at least) ‘remote hands’ for the much enlarged pool of technical support gurus who’d be needed to resolve the multiple, inevitable technical issues that would arise.

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Pure nightmare. Don’t even try to guess at costs, it’ll hurt too much.

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