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Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting Hardcover – September 5, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rubin, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, tells the fascinating story of how he set off a media storm in the summer of 2003 when he and two graduate students revealed that the Diebold electronic voting technology in use in 37 states was riddled with errors and problems. A self-described "computer-geek," Rubin was publicly accused of undermining democracy by officials he describes as desperate to save face after investing state money in the machines. He also became the object of an e-voting industry campaign to smear his work, especially after it was revealed that he had connections to a voting software company. Refreshingly, he describes this potential conflict of interest with considerable candor. Rubin's account of his mounting frustration as governmental and industrial spin doctors continued to champion electronic voting in the face of its manifold problems, and turned electronic voting into a partisan issue, is a sympathetic one. Despite the inability of his critics to understand it, his explanation of the technological issues at the heart of electronic voting is clear, and his argument that votes need to be verifiable in order for the democratic process to be meaningful is so reasonable that it sounds almost revolutionary. (Sept. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rubin, a professor of computer science, found himself at center stage of the debate surrounding the safety and security of electronic voting when he and his grad students exposed serious failings in the code in electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold. The company's source code had been hacked into and was posted on the Internet. Rubin's analysis of the code and the dangers of electronic voting were disclosed six months before his home state of Maryland was due to use the machines in the 2002 primary and general election, triggering scrutiny by Rubin's peers, politicians, and the media as well as a Diebold campaign to ruin his career. Rubin thoroughly analyzes the vulnerabilities of electronic voting and offers an absorbing account of how his involvement in the e--voting controversy affected his life and career, in what he describes as a scenario from a "bad Hollywood script." In this highly accessible book, Rubin offers readers a look at the weaknesses of electronic voting systems and the need for paper records. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767922107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767922104
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,580,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary McGraw on September 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Buy this book if you care about the future of voting.

Once every blue moon a technologist who can both do world class science and also communicate effectively with normal people about deeply technical issues is born. Avi Rubin is just that sort of person. His work crosses the chasm from "important to computer security types" to "important to every voter in a modern democracy".

Avi has been at the forefront in telling the truth about computer security for years. His work ranges widely from Internet privacy and anonymity all the way to breaking RFID security. One essential thread runs through his work---a deep, humanitarian understanding of how security issues impact every day life.

Even if you could not care less about computer security you will enjoy this story. Telling the truth about technology can be hazardous---especially when it comes to something as widespread as voting machines. Avi has made his share of enemies in the electronic voting world. They would rather focus on politics and earning money than on safeguarding democracy. If you wonder what it might be like to be in the line of fire of large corporations and powerful politicians, buy this book and learn first hand what Avi has faced so far.

The most interesting thing about this book is that it relates a complete story but represents only the very beginning of what promises to be a long debate over electronic voting and democracy. Educate yourself today on this important issue, and then spread the word.

Gary McGraw, Ph.D.

CTO, Cigital

Author of "Software Security" and "Exploiting Software"

Host of <a href="[...]">The Silver Bullet Security Podcast</a> (featuring an interview with Avi Rubin in episode one)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a supremely readable, very important book. Rubin's unaffected, engaging "gee whiz" attitude is the perfect antidote to the false pride of America's typical election officials and the obscurantism of the E-voting industry.

Rubin's cautionary history of the alarming deficiencies of current voting technology and the frank dishonesty (and less obvious manipulation of facts) of the E-voting industry is chilling.

America's leading computer scientists sound an alarm, but Rubin reports that know-it-all election officials refuse to listen. Why does this strange thinking persist and grow? Who benefits by the sloppy misapplication of amateurish technology to American voting?

I am the Clerk/Recorder of Yolo County, California, home of UC Davis and just over the river from the state capitol in Sacramento. I have had careers as a scientist & academic and as a lobbyist in Sacramento. I think I know how politics work. I appreciate the contribution of science to progress. I am not a Luddite. I knew two programming languages before I started grad school.

And I certainly do NOT know enough about computer design, architecture, security or user-interface to evaluate or warranty those qualities in any of the "certified" voting systems approved by the federal government or the incumbent California Secretary of State. After reading Rubin's book, I don't trust that anyone outside of academia is qualified or disinterested enough to address this problem.

Who profits when these voting systems are approved? Who stands to profit over time? Why are public officials complicit in this mess? Rubin does not address these questions, and it's probably just as well...
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Format: Hardcover
In an important new book Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting, Avi Rubin writes `too often in American life, when it comes to divisive issues, the facts can be less important than the weight of public opinion'. That basically sums up Rubin's story in this fascinating story of his frustrations in dealing with government and corporate officials in his quest to show that e-voting was not as secure as it was originally made out to be.

Brave New Ballot (BNB) is Rubin's story of how in 2003, he and his graduate students at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that the Diebold Election Systems electronic voting technology in wide use was full of security problems. It was just in 2002 that Sherron Watkins of Enron was named Time magazine person of the year for her work in uncovering fraud at Enron. It would have been thought that Rubin's work would have immediately won him some sort of patriot of the year award for his work.

While the accolades were indeed many, his team's research was maligned as being that of a homework assignment, and the Administrator for Elections for the state of Maryland (where Rubin lives and works) publicly stated that `computer scientists (a direct reference to Rubin and his team) who question the security of electronic voting machines are undermining our democracy.' Such a scenario makes up much of the story that the book tells in Rubin's team's efforts to blow the whistle on unsecure e-voting machines.

As to the Administrator for Elections for the state of Maryland and her disdain for computer scientists, she would likely find constituents such as the zombie-like Stepford wives more to her liking. Unfortunately, she ended up with Professor Rubin.
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