EDA Affiliate Shows Chicago Voter Database Open to Attack

RELEASE: October 23, 2006

Contact Bob Wilson - (847) 644-2654



Chicago, October 24, 2006. A serious security vulnerability
was discovered in the City of Chicago online voter registration
database that would allow an identity pirate to obtain the names,
addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers of more than 1.5
million Chicago voters.

According to Bob Wilson, Cook County chair of Illinois Ballot
Integrity Project, a malicious hacker could have readily change the
voter registration status of individual voters or groups of voters.

"For example, you could change the status of all the voters in a
precinct to inactive after the registration deadline so that when one
of those voters checked their online status they might believe they
were ineligible and wouldn't attempt to vote," said Wilson. "Or, you
could change their polling place information so they would show up at
the wrong precinct on election day . . . the possibilities are nearly
endless and could cause election day havoc," he added.

IBIP notified staff at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners
several weeks ago about the vulnerability but no action was taken.
had hoped that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners would take
quick action to plug this hole, but apparently that's not the case,"
said Illinois Ballot Integrity Project member, Peter Zelchenko. He
estimates it would take little more than five minutes to fix the
problem. Late last week, IBIP and Zelchenko became aware that the
security breach was significantly more severe than first thought. The
Board was immediately notified and began taking action to alleviate the
threat last Friday and began installing a new web interface over the

Peter Zelchenko, 43rd Ward Aldermanic Candidate with more than 30
years of computer programming and database design and management
experience, discovered the flaw during what he described as a "what if"
session. Zelchenko said, "This situation shows how vulnerable the
entire electronic voting system is. Identity theft is only one possible
outcome. Election theft is another very real possibility."
According to
Zelchenko, "This was a very serious vulnerability. Here we have an
online database that can be accessed by millions of PCs throughout the
world. Clearly, this indicates that the whole system is inherently

"Problems of this type occur when systems and personnel are strained
to the limit," said Wilson, continuing, "an apt analogy is that of a
balloon - it only takes a small hole to let all the air out. In this
case, a small hole could have let out the personal information of 2.2
million Chicagoans.

"Identity theft is a crime that everyone is concerned about," said
Clare Tobin, chair of the Chicago Chapter of IBIP. "We need to be
equally concerned about the theft of one of our most precious rights -
the right to vote," concluded Tobin.

The Illinois Ballot Integrity Project is a not-for-profit,
non-partisan civic organization dedicated to the correction of election
system deficiencies and to ensuring fair, accurate, and completely
transparent elections. IBIP sees paper ballots as fundamental to this
quest. "It takes a lot of time, effort and people to change 10,000
paper ballots, but only a few keystrokes to change 10,000 computer
votes," said Wilson. We do not oppose the use of technology in the
election process, but it's obvious that today's electronic voting
systems fall far short of minimum acceptable standards," he continued.

"Each of the complex steps in the voting process requires the
translation of the voter's intent from one form of media to another,"
said Zelchenko. Every time that translation occurs, there's an
opportunity for error or deliberate manipulation. A paper ballot offers
one simple step that's nearly impossible to misinterpret and very
difficult to hack," he concluded.


The Mission of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project [2]
is to inform and educate the public, media and government officials
about important election integrity issues and to promote the adoption
of legislation and policies designed to secure the democratic process.
IBIP believes that fundamental to election integrity is the inscribing
of all votes (whether by hand or by machine) on durable paper ballots
which are easily handled and verified by the individual voter. The
voter's paper ballot should be the only official ballot for purposes of
casting, tallying, counting, audit and recount.


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