London software testing news UK


Test lab barred from approval process

Posted in Mistakes by testing in London on January 5, 2007

From New York Times

A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.

The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.

Experts on voting systems say the Ciber problems underscore longstanding worries about lax inspections in the secretive world of voting-machine testing. The action by the federal Election Assistance Commission seems certain to fan growing concerns about the reliability and security of the devices.

The commission acted last summer, but the problem was not disclosed then. Officials at the commission and Ciber confirmed the action in recent interviews.

Ciber, the largest tester of the nation’s voting machine software, says it is fixing its problems and expects to gain certification soon.

Experts say the deficiencies of the laboratory suggest that crucial features like the vote-counting software and security against hacking may not have been thoroughly tested on many machines now in use.

“What’s scary is that we’ve been using systems in elections that Ciber had certified, and this calls into question those systems that they tested,” said Aviel D. Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins.

Professor Rubin said that although some software bugs had shown up quickly, in other instances “you might have to use the systems for a while before something happens.”

Officials at the commission and other election experts said it was essential for a laboratory to follow its quality-control procedures and document all its testing processes to instill confidence in the results.

Commission officials said that they were evaluating the overall diligence of the laboratory and that they did not try to determine whether its weaknesses had contributed to problems with specific machines.

Computer scientists have shown that some electronic machines now in use are vulnerable to hacking. Some scientists caution that even a simple software error could affect thousands of votes.

In various places, elections have been complicated by machines that did not start, flipped votes from one candidate to another or had trouble tallying the votes.

Until recently, the laboratories that test voting software and hardware have operated without federal scrutiny. Even though Washington and the states have spent billions to install the new technologies, the machine manufacturers have always paid for the tests that assess how well they work, and little has been disclosed about any flaws that were discovered.

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2 Responses to 'Test lab barred from approval process'

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  1. […] in Software testing, Mistakes by testing in London on the January 8th, 2007 In a follow up to last weeks story, the New York Times has a new article on Testing the […]

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