Electronic Voting Firm Site Hack
Dec. 29, 2003 PT
WASHINGTON -- A company developing security technology for electronic voting suffered an embarrassing hacker break-in that executives think was tied to the rancorous debate over the safety of casting ballots online.
VoteHere of Bellevue, Wash., confirmed Monday that U.S. authorities are investigating a break-in of its computers months ago, when someone roamed its internal computer network. The intruder accessed internal documents and may have copied sensitive software blueprints that the company planned eventually to disclose publicly.
Chief executive Jim Adler said VoteHere was confident it knew the identity of its hacker and had already turned over "megabytes of evidence" to the FBI and Secret Service. It also repaired the hole in its computer network the intruder used to gain entry in October over the Internet, he said.
U.S. authorities confirmed the investigation but declined to comment further.
Adler would not identify the company's chief suspect but said he thinks the person was linked to the debate over the security of electronic voting. The same individual may be tied to the theft in March of internal documents from Diebold Election Systems of Canton, Ohio.
"We caught the intruder, identified him by name. We know where he lives," Adler said. "We think this is political. There have been break-ins around election companies over the last several months, and we think this is related."
VoteHere, which is privately held, disclosed the federal investigation to stress that the break-in did not affect the integrity of its voting technology, Adler said. The company also wanted to pre-empt any criticisms of electronic voting based on public disclosures of its internal records.
"I have no problem debating the merits of electronic voting with anyone, but breaking and entering is not an appropriate forum for technology debate," Adler said.
Adler said the intruder accessed internal corporate documents and may have copied sensitive "source code," blueprints for software. But Adler said VoteHere planned eventually to reveal that source code, which is protected under patents, for review by outside security researchers.
"Given the political sensitivity to this issue, we felt it was important to get out on this," Adler said.
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