By Abrenian SysOp (Eric Bringas)
San Diego, California. Three days before the 2013 elections, you think with all the rambling and jousting between candidates and their supports from different camps, we’ve had enough? Think again. Now everyone’s attention is shifting to the PCOS (Precint Count Optical Scanner) Machine that will be used for this 2013 Elections.
For everyone’s education, the PCOS is an Optical Scanner that reads votes based on pencil markings on a special type of paper. Voters mark numbers that corresponds to the candidates running for the post. The result will then be transmitted to a server using different ways. 1. through the GSM Network (same way SMS or text messaging is transmitted), 2, through an internet connection provided by your telephone company, 3. through a satellite transmission. If all of these mode of transmission fails, 4. a technician can physically take the flashdrive to the municipal server and load it there.
Sounds like a very simple system? Not quite! Already in the past months (even at this very moment), numerous complaints has been received by the COMELEC. Mostly technical in nature. Some technicians/operators had complained the lack of training to operate or even troubleshoot the machine.
There was a report of a clash in Tabuk City according to sunstar.com.ph while these PCOS machines are in transit.
In Abra, there was a posting on our website on an alleged verbal tossle between Governor Takit Bersamin and Vice-Governor Candidate Mailed Molina in a gym in Penarubbia regarding these PCOS machines.
And of course the refusal of the company who developed the software that runs these machine to release the source code to the COMELEC as required by law. The issue was finally resolve when COMELEC got hold of the source code 4 days before the elections.
4 days to review the code is impossible. For one thing, it may have been written in a very proprietary format and the code itself could be millions of lines. According to some experts it will take at least six months to dig into such a complex system.
A blogger (http://www.pinoytechnoguide.com/2013/02/what-is-pcos-machine-how-it-works.html) who actually has a hands-on experience with the machine has listed some short-comings of the PCOS.
In his list, the problems with the PCOS System:
1. Power Interruption
2 .No Cellphone Signal
3. Malfunctioning PCOS and Shortage
4. Stolen PCOS Machines
5. Hackers and Stealing of Data from Memory Card or Wirelessly
If you take a look at the list, the first 4 issues is got to do with the PCOS machines needed to be physically present at the voting precints. This is NO different from a paper-based ballot we’ve used before. Ballots were printed and steel ballot boxes are being shipped all over the Philippines. The two systems are both vulnerable when it comes to physical sabotage, e.g. snatching and destruction.
the 5th item, Hacking the system. The system is utilizing 256-bit encryption which would be hard to crack BUT there’s rule of the thumb in my IT world; any system can be cracked if you have physical access to the machine.
So what’s the solutions? The solution is simple, take out the factor about physical security threat (by now you know this is the biggest threat). Eliminate the PCOS Machines and run everything remotely, run the system via The Cloud.
Cloud Computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) which are available in a remote location and accessible over a network (typically the Internet). Users will then access this application via a web browser (Internet Exporer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) or through a mobile app (IOS, Andriod).
A good example of cloud-based computing is your email system (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.), online banking, and the most popular of all Facebook. All you need to access these systems is an internet connection, a computer or a smartphone and either use a browser or install an app.
Now speaking of facebook. Everyone is very familiar on what facebook is all about – adding a “Friends”, “Unfriend” a friend. blocking a stalker, rant about your day or just wanted to be a poet, in a nutshell, it’s just a huge Social Network of users who use it the way they feel like it.
Now for me, I’m thinking different. What about using Facebook (or at least the idea of it) as our Voting System? Here’s how in a Nutshell (a view from the top) :
1. COMELEC creates a Facebook group per town.
2. Each group is controlled by an Admin (COMELEC Representative)
3. The group can be set that only the Admin can approve/disapprove members (based on voter’s registration list)
4. Candidates will be invited to the group and present their platform of government.
5. The COMELEC Admin will post all the candidates Photos.
6. Then the voting starts. To cast your vote, You just need to “Like” the Candidates’ Photos. If you change your mind, you can always “Unlike” the photo. Note in Facebook you can only like ONCE, so no one can vote multiple times.
In just few hours we’re done with the elections everyone will be able to see the winner right then and there. How’s that for a FREE and QUICK and oh so SAFE automated electonic voting system?
It may sound crazy to you but just think about it!
So ditch the P9 Billion malfunctioning PCOS System and get the taxpayer’s money back!
Disclaimer: This system of course does not take into consideration other factors such as vote-buying, electoral initimidation and harrassment, and mudslinging between candidates. These factors are more social rather than technical. There’s no bullet-proof voting system for a morally corrupt participants.