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NSW Electoral Commission claims physical separation mitigates Swiss voting flaw

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(Image: Joe McKendrick)

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) has claimed it is not impacted by the security issues that were disclosed about the Swiss e-voting system overnight, thanks to using an air-gapped machine, even though the flaw exists in its iVote system.

“The identification of this issue does not affect the use of iVote for the NSW State election,” the NSW Electoral Commission said in a statement.

As described by security researchers Sarah Jamie Lewis, Olivier Pereira, and Vanessa Teague, the flaw is found in the mixnet component that shuffles votes in an effort to remove the ability to link votes to individual electors.

“The implementation of the commitment scheme in the SwissPost-Scytl mixnet uses a trapdoor commitment scheme, which allows anyone who knows the trapdoor values to generate a shuffle-proof transcript that passes verification but actually alters votes,” the researchers said.

“This allows undetectable vote manipulation by an authority who implemented or administered a mix server.”

Must read: E-voting is still the wrong answer to the wrong question

However, the NSWEC claims it is unaffected because its mixnet is not connected to any systems, and is “securely housed” at the NSWEC.

“In order for this weakness to be an issue, a person would need to gain access to the physical machine. They would need all the right credentials and the right code to alter the software,” a spokesperson for NSWEC said.

“Our processes reduce this risk as we specifically separate the duties of people on the team and control access to the machine to reduce the potential for an insider attack.”

The electoral commission said Scytl is still delivering a patch for the flaw, and that it is confident in the security of iVote.

“iVote is an important voting channel to ensure equal access to democracy, particularly for people with disability and remote voters, and we will continue working to strengthen its operation,” the spokesperson said.

Tell ’em they’re dreaming: Australia Post details plan to use blockchain for voting

On Twitter, Lewis pointed out the high level of auditing the system was subjected to.

“I also think it’s very important that everyone who might find themselves in a nation implementing electronic voting is aware of how many audits, and public puffery the Swiss election system has gone through. It is very important you understand how well audited this system was,” the researcher said.

Two other researchers also discovered the mixnet flaw.

In 2015, Teague was part of a team that discovered iVote was susceptible to the FREAK vulnerability.

Once again, the findings appeared close to a week out from polling day.

“The commission has now had time to review the claims made by Dr Teague and Dr Halderman, and has received advice from our information security auditors,” the NSWEC said at the time. “The commission’s principal security advisers CSC Cyber Security ANZ noted that Dr Teague and Dr Halderman’s claims about the vulnerabilities in iVote are overstated.

Previously: NSW Electoral Commission scrambles to patch iVote flaw

“The proposed FREAK attack requires a high level of technical expertise and a number of pre-conditions to be successful, and as such is not considered a real threat to iVote. We have been advised that the likelihood of someone intercepting votes online using this approach is as real as a malicious postman replacing a postal vote.”

The similarities between the incidents do not end there, with Scytl questioning the motivation of the researchers, as the NSWEC did four years ago.

The iVote system has been subsequently used in elections in Western Australia.

Related Coverage

Online voting: Now Estonia teaches the world a lesson in electronic elections

In this month’s Estonian parliamentary elections, a whopping 44 percent of the ballot was cast using e-voting.

EU to tech giants: Step up fake news fight before European elections

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla have all made progress fighting disinformation campaigns, but they “need to go further and faster before May,” the European Commission warns.

Australian Electoral Commission wants money to fix ageing IT systems

The Australian Electoral Commission has said it needs money to update its election IT systems, warning that the existing ones are at the end of their useful life.

NSW iVote ballot mistake put down to human error

The NSW Electoral Commission’s CIO Ian Brightwell has said that human error was at the core of an electronic ballot problem on the NSW iVote system that may have the potential to see some of the results from last month’s state election thrown into question.



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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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