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First fruits of new e-voting certification process: two companies get thumbs-up from federal testers

Posted on 08/05/2019 | in 杭州夜生活 | by

How do Americans know that electronic voting machines are reliable? They have to trust the word of the private testing laboratories that examine the machines. But how do people know that the testing laboratories themselves are reliable? That’s where the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) comes in. As part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act, the NIST is charged with providing technical guidance to the Election Assistance Commission as the EAC certifies testing laboratories. Yesterday, the NIST recommended that SysTest Labs and iBeta Quality Assurance receive the first full accreditations from the EAC.HangZhou Night Net

Six labs have currently applied for accreditation: SysTest, iBeta, InfoGuard, BKP Security, Wyle, and Ciber. Last summer, the EAC granted interim accreditation to Wyle and SysTest, though it found some documentation problems at Ciber and refused to give the company the green light. Now that the NIST process is firmly in place, interim accreditation will be replaced by a full accreditation process that takes 9 to 18 months to complete.

NIST bases its program on ISO/IEC 17025, a set of “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.” Because there are currently no standard tests for evaluating voting machines, each laboratory has created its own testing suite. NIST accreditation is designed to ensure that the testing process at each lab can produce precise data with repeatable results, not that the tests themselves are well-designed.

Recognizing that this is a weakness, NIST will start development work this year on a standard series of tasks that all laboratories will eventually be encouraged to adopt. There is no word on when the new tests will be ready.

The government does require seven basic areas to be tested. Voting machines first need to be evaluated to make sure they conform to federal design standards, and then they are run through a physical configuration audit in which the lab makes sure that the machine actually matches the documentation. The third part of the test is a source code review, followed by a functional configuration audit that tries to determine if every function mentioned in the manual actually exists and works. A system integration test, reliability and accuracy tests, and security testing round out the requirements.

Now that the EAC has received the first two NIST recommendations, it still needs to act on them for the accreditation to become official.

The EAC also issued a letter last week asking both voting machine manufacturers and testing labs to refrain from political activity. Saying that the companies involved had a “significant responsibility as the public places its trust in these organizations,” the EAC asked labs and manufacturers to “adopt policies that prohibit the organization and its employees from engaging in act of these that may create the appearance of a conflict of interest or partisan bias.”

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