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Clear and Present Dangers To The 2010 Elections

April 17, 2010

Our own civil society leaders and IT experts have been raising red flag for months.

I’m talking about the buzz over a report entitled “Assessing 2010 Elections Automation in the Philippines” prepared by Pacific Strategies and Assessments which was exrensively quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer this week.

PSA’s 16-page report to clients including embassies and the Philippine Chamber of Commerge and Industries (PCCI) entitled “Assessing 2010 Elections Automation in the Philippines” lists the dangers facing our elections in across the areas of the election process, the manpower for the electoral exercise and most dangerously, technology.”

The report was actually released late last year but it’s only now gaining notice with the controversial term of GMA winding down and the political derby in its final month.

Oh yes the automated polls will push through.

But because of public perception that the COMELEC is sloshing through the preparations and green-lighting sweetheart contracts left and right Filipinos are more loudly asking if we can hack this, or if hackers will hack the process to allow the elections to be ‘Garcified’ using Digital-Dagdag Bawas.

Most important for us to understand are the clear and present danger to the election as far as the new election technology goes:

* Plans to secure and house PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines and hardware components “remain undetermined.”
* The entire batch of 82,000 PCOS machines and their components, servers, printers, power generators, 180,640 memory cards, 82,200 batteries “have not been fully tested.”
* “No rigorous field testing” of PCOS machines has been held, except in a few areas where there had been “high ballot rejection rates.”
* The source code, the so-called brain of the machines, “remains highly restricted.” “No full, independent systems audit report (has been) released to date.”
* The use of two memory cards for each machine is likely to invite “overproduction of memory cards” and open up “opportunities for mishandling, theft, vandalism or cheating.”
* Only 70 percent of voting centers have cellular network or broadband signals needed to transmit voting results. “Contractual arrangements with telecommunications providers have not been disclosed.”
* No independent party has been designated to handle private keys that would unlock PCOS machines prior to transmission of results.

The COMELEC’s dander is up and warning critics they risk being cited for contempt.

Will the threat have a chilling effect?

I doubt it.

Thanks to Windows 7’s snipping tool, here are the highlights of the PSA Report.

Information opens eyes and liberates:

The PSA website has been hard to access these past couple of hours but you can download the report via NewsBreak here:

http://newsbreak.com.ph/index.php?option=com_remository&Itemid=88889273&func=fileinfo&id=391

You will note that the third frame of this posts photo montage shows the PCOS mahines’ thermal paper election result printout.

As all of us know the prints on thermal paper, the same thing fax machines use, fade and even disappear when exposed to heat and in this current environment, El Nino heat.

Nuff said.

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