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Can Static Electricity Generate Votes? 377

Posted by timothy
from the dc-elections-crack-me-up-and-barry-too dept.
artgeeq writes "A recent local election in Washington, DC resulted in 1500 extra votes for a candidate. The board of elections is now claiming that static electricity caused the malfunction. Is this even remotely possible? If so, couldn't an election be invalidated pretty easily?"
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Can Static Electricity Generate Votes?

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  • My friends (Score:5, Funny)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) * on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:40PM (#25241039)

    If I am elected, all charges will be positive.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:40PM (#25241055)
    ... but I'm shocked.
  • but it once got you a free pong game.
  • by Haoie (1277294) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:43PM (#25241073) Homepage

    Is static electricity smarter than the average, uninformed voter?

  • by Wowlapalooza (1339989) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:44PM (#25241081)

    Nah, it's just all those Body Thetans trying to vote Xenu into office.

    Nice try, fellas. Better luck next time...

  • by burnitdown (1076427) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:44PM (#25241085) Homepage Journal

    In addition, it's smarter than many of the voters.

  • Valid election? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stm2 (141831) <sbassi@genesdigi ... Ecom minus berry> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:45PM (#25241089) Homepage Journal

    I can't understand how do you people accept voting with back boxes (that is, w/o access to source code).

    • Re:Valid election? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by j0nb0y (107699) <jonboy300 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:50PM (#25241141) Homepage

      I personally have no problem with black box voting machines, provided that they print out a human readable ballot, and the printed ballot is the only official ballot for the purpose of vote counting.

      Open source was always a distraction from the real issue. I like open source, but we shouldn't use this issue to try to push open source. It just doesn't make sense. Open source doesn't guarantee security. If the computer is responsible for maintaining the vote total, there will be the possibility of mischief, whether the software is open source or not.

      • Re:Valid election? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@nospAm.metasquared.com> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:28PM (#25241391) Homepage

        Since they're going to use the electronic vote tallies anyway, random sampling a proportion of the votes and verifying them against the paper tallies should be a practical means of verification. Since the sampling is random, there is no predictable pattern the voting machines could exploit. And no letting them write special routines for sampling; the output should be read as if from a mini-election and the sampling performed *after* the data is acquired. The counts should have to match exactly, or at least very closely.

        If they don't consistently match, the results should be invalidated, the company that creates the machine should be banned from providing machines in future elections, and they should be required to pay the government back for the machines they already bought, for the cost of the rerun election, and with a punitive damage added on. That should provide sufficient economic incentive for them to make sure they do it right, if the internal motivation to conduct a fair election is not enough.

      • Re:Valid election? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:29PM (#25241397) Journal
        I agree that open source is a distraction from the real issue(though it is, I would argue, a likely part of the solution to the real issue, so it comes up for a reason); but I think that the real issue is slightly different. For the purpose of discussion, I propose a measure, call it the "Nixon Number". A system's Nixon Number is the smallest plausible number of people who would have to conspire in order to subvert that system successfully. The real problem with electronic voting is not closed vs. open per se, it is the fact that, thus far, we keep building systems with pitifully low Nixon Numbers in order to do the job, when what we need is the exact opposite. A system's Nixon Number depends on hardware, software, procedures, and institutional safeguards.

        Open Source licencing is not necessary to build a system with high Nixon Number, nor is it assured that an OSS system will have one. However, I would argue that(barring substantial advances in static analysis of binaries, or the like) publicly auditable code, along with a publicly available trusted compiler, publicly disclosed hashes of all binaries, etc, etc. is in practice necessary to achieve a Nixon Number high enough to be considered for critical uses like voting. The code doesn't have to be under a licence allowing free reuse, or reuse at all; but it must be available for inspection by anybody, for any reason, without limitation or expense.

        That alone is by no means good enough, the other main issue is hardware security. Unfortunately, techniques for assuring that hardware is doing what it ought to be are as yet immature(see this [eetimes.com] from EETimes). In practice, voting and similar critical systems should probably be conducted on minimal complexity systems, so that the necessary chips can be manufactured with oversight, in secure fabs, and optically or otherwise verified.

        Even, that, though, isn't enough. Beyond hardware and software security and transparency, a high Nixon Number requires that the technology be surrounded by a robust institutional structure. We have, thus far, failed here as well. The election commissions have, on the whole, done an awful job of enforcing oversight of voting system vendors, and have rubber stamped known broken systems.



        Ultimately, I think the difficulties of electronic voting have two parts. The first is that it isn't an easy problem. The second is that we don't take it nearly seriously enough. If elections are not free and fair, democracy has fallen. Period. Full Stop. No ifs, ands, or buts. E voting is not something to be done on the cheap. It is not something we can trust vendors to do. We are treating E voting like a minor IT procurement project, when we should be treating it as Democracy's Manhattan Project.
        • Re:Valid election? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @10:51PM (#25241803) Homepage Journal

          We are treating E voting like a minor IT procurement project, when we should be treating it as Democracy's Manhattan Project.

          I presume the "Nixon" number refers to the 1960 election, stolen in Chicago by a handful of votes?

          Right idea, wrong project. The Manhattan Project was a massively funded, mad dash for survival and let's face it, E-voting just is not that important. Ideally it would be more like the mission to the moon, which was also massively funded, but each step of the way was carefully and meticulously planned and tested before being deployed.

          As a matter of fact, it's really not a problem worth spending money on solving. There are some things that are done better by hand and counting election ballots is one of them.

          Thomas Edison's first invention was an automatic vote recorder for legislatures. It failed to generate any interest.
          http://www.conservapedia.com/Thomas_Edison [conservapedia.com]

          He obtained his first patent on his first "real" invention, an automatic vote-recording machine. However, as with many inventors first attempts, it was not well received and turned out to be unmarketable. This was not because it did not work; it worked well, it was because the market was not receptive to the invention.

          The way I first read about this was more instructive, but I cannot find where the more detailed reference is. Edison was taken aside by one lawmaker in Washington who explained to him that if counting votes in Congress was too fast, they could well wind up voting for legislation that should not pass.

          There is no need to rush the process. There is no need to declare elections over a month before votes are cast. There is no need to declare a winner before all voters have voted when votes are being cast. There is no NEED for E-voting. 12-24 hours to handcount paper ballots is sufficient and also enough to have the counting audited/supervised by independent parties.

        • Re:Valid election? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dbIII (701233) on Friday October 03, 2008 @04:08AM (#25243177)
          This time it's static electricity, next time it will be an unexpected (and unobserved by other means) large vote by women for Palin. It just has to be a plausable excuse and a margin that isn't entirely impossible.

          Personally after the last decade of elections with unusual problems I think it's time to call in the UN to run this one. Use US election rules but just let a third party that is not in it for profit and is able to apply the same way to do things everywhere. If you really want voting machines get them from India where they are an order of magnitude cheaper and are vastly more reliable.

          At least if McCain wins by static electricity he's better than the incumbent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Skrapion (955066)

        You might want to check out the video in this news post [slashdot.org]. Printing a human-readable ballot isn't as secure as you may think.

        Counting paper ballots also isn't the most secure option, given how easy it would be for volunteers to "lose" ballots. Ideally the votes should be counted both ways to ensure that they line up.

        The most secure system I can think of would use scantron cards and have the voter verify that the scanning machine reads the card properly and then either returns the ballot (if invalid) or depo

    • So that you can verify that the electrical design is static safe.

      Although designing for static safety is non-trivial, it is a very well understood field and should be part of any electronic design.

  • by ThanatosMinor (1046978) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:47PM (#25241117)
    The Carpeted Man wins the general election by a whopping 6.88x10^89 votes! It was surely a shrewd maneuver to choose a Van de Graaff generator as his running mate!

    This is one for the record books, folks.
  • Solution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:47PM (#25241123) Journal

    Paper ballots?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's no way static electricity could create several thousand new rows in a database, the odds of bits being flipped randomly in the correct format are extremely low. However, if they just have a row for each candidate, with a count next to it, then it could be altered... but wouldn't you want some sort of signature to protect from this kind of accident? If a bit if flipped, the signature is invalid and you count the paper ballots to verify the count.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:37PM (#25241449)

      Paper ballots?

      Chad disagrees. Ask him yourself - he's hanging out around here somewhere.

  • I can see a lot of potential for this to cause problems with our current political situation. Maybe this will finally get people charged up about bringing back paper and pencil voting.

  • Repeat it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:50PM (#25241139) Journal

    Generating static electricity isn't very difficult. I can't imagine it would be very hard to repeat this problem and prove that static was causing it. But the whole idea of the scientific method has really fallen out of favor in this country, why not just make up an explanation that feels true instead of investigating. I'm sure no one was trying to sway the elections...

    Electronic voting is such a horrible, horrible idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtconner (544309)
      I think the point is that this is not physically even possible, and it's obvious that lies are being told. A data storage device that is not protected from static electricity is not a storage device at all.
  • Excuse me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:50PM (#25241143) Journal

    Also, voters wearing paraphernalia, caps, t-shirts and stickers, for candidates to the voting precinct, the board of elections said if poll workers see it, they will throw people out.

    I guess these places are not free speech zones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by corsec67 (627446)

      Well, considering what the Free Speech Cage(360 degree panorama) [flickr.com] at the DNC in Denver looked like, where the Pepsi Center [flickr.com] was barely visible, that restriction doesn't surprise me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nate_in_ME (1281156)
      Most areas have a "no-campaigning" zone a certain distance from voting sites. I know here in Maine, you see a bunch of "vote for me" signs leading up to the voting sites, then they all end right by the sign that says "no campaigning beyond this point." I tried finding a good article about it, but this was the best i could find quickly...http://dallassouthblog.com/2008/09/23/no-campaign-t-shirts-or-buttons-inside-texas-new-york-new-jersey-and-other-polling-places/
  • Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:50PM (#25241147) Journal
    I don't buy it. Static can definitely frag electronic devices that aren't properly protected; but having static damage and/or random bit flipping cause 1500 extra votes to appear in an otherwise valid filesystem is the computer equivalent of a human getting cancer and, instead of a lethal tumor, growing an extra, fully functional eye.

    At best, the system is seriously, seriously flawed. If there is even basic checksumming in place(never mind signing) it would be functionally impossible for static damage to imitate valid data. At bad, there is some other error entirely, and it has been decided that an idiot emitting bullshit is cheaper and easier than actually investigating the problem. At worst, which is upsettingly plausible, the system is suffering from outright fraud, and those involved don't even feel the need to lie convincingly.
    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GrpA (691294) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:23PM (#25241359)

      Actually, depending on just how badly designed the system is (think primary-school-level understanding of technology that most managers have) it could be plausible... Especially without any details on how the system works.

      Static (when it doesn't destroy an input by shorting out the diode protection network on it) causes a signal to be received.

      If you designed a basic enough cartridge (eg, 1 button on each input, with the cartridge just registering "Button Presses") then yes, I can actually imagine that causing false votes registered.

      And I can also imagine vote machines using this type of technology as non-tech savvy people design this equipment and I've seen designs as stupid as this in money changing machines...

      And it didn't take the kids at arcades long to figure out rub your feet on the carpet, get free coins.

      If they can make this mistake on a machine giving out their own money, then beleive me, it's not that much of a stretch of imagination to beleive they would do something equally stupid in the design of a voting machine.

      GrpA

  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:57PM (#25241189) Homepage Journal

    The answer is yes, it is possible.

    However, in my rather limited experience with inadvertently shocking boards, the most common result is that the board resets itself.

    11 points, though:

    1. While it is indeed possible for static electricity to jostle bus lines, power supply lines, etc..., I find it rather unlikely that static discharge would add an extra 10111011100 (binary) votes for a candidate. I would find a power of two (such as 2048 or 4096) more plausible, but still unlikely.
    2. Any engineer worth his salt is going to design the board and layout to minimize the possibility of static discharge damage. I'm not sure why any competent engineer would design the case with an electrical path from VCC or data lines to the user interface; regardless, it seems very odd that static is the culprit. Still, those who can remember the Palm cradle fiasco know that such oversights do occasionally make it into commercial products.
    3. I don't for a moment believe static is to blame. Even assuming well-intentioned engineers, it is far more likely that the code has a race condition, or the box was hacked, or it was deliberate sabotage. They're probably saying static because they have no clue what happened.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      While it is indeed possible for static electricity to jostle bus lines, power supply lines, etc..., I find it rather unlikely that static discharge would add an extra 10111011100 (binary) votes for a candidate. I would find a power of two (such as 2048 or 4096) more plausible, but still unlikely.

      ...all while leaving the other 512MB uncorrupted so that the software runs without crashing and is able to perform the rest of its duties.

      Bullshit. There are better odds of our sun going supernova in the next 30 seconds and us being saved by Rocky & Bullwinkle flying backwards ala Superman to reverse time.

  • BS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cuby (832037) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:57PM (#25241191)
    Can static create 1500 times the right wave patterns in order to simulate the electrical signals of a vote?... come on!
    • I'm with you. It's a flimsy excuse, as cited up-thread.

      Sadly, someone will buy the excuse at a level of government where that excuse will be accepted.

      And we'll lose further faith in electronic voting capabilities, because they are so rife for fudging.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rrohbeck (944847)

      Simple answer: God dit it!
      If He can create fake "evidence" about evolution to mislead us, He sure can also wiggle just the right bits with a zap. Including the CRC or checksum that was there (hopefully.)

      With the right amount of disbelief in the scientific method and probabilities, anything is possible.

  • by martyb (196687) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:57PM (#25241199)

    The title to the linked article is: 'Static' Blamed for D.C.'s Extra Votes Snafu

    <Inigo_Montoya_mode>
    You keep using that word [wikipedia.org]. I do not think it means what you think it means.
    </Inigo_Montoya_mode>

  • There are many other way that the votes would of got on there like.

    The cartridge and or voting system not being reset.

    People finding away to vote 2+ times in a race.

    Some rigging the vote.

    A hacker doing it to see if it can be done.

    Some kind of buffer / overflow / bad software that adds some number to the votes.

    A error code / build in testing code that some how got triggered.

    A build cheat code in the voting software.

  • Republican or democrat ?

  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:02PM (#25241237) Journal
    In this charged election cycle it is imperative that our current resistance to voting be overcome by taking the time to cool things off.

    Mr. OhmBama is conducting himself fluidly and we must expand our internal capacitors to make sure that our output never fluctuates.

    You already know that when the heat is on the resistance will increase! Be ready! We have a lot of ground to cover and we must always be careful not to take short cuts to that ground to avoid catastrophe.
  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:04PM (#25241249)

    slot machines are protected from Static shocks and other hacks and this seems like a hack job and not a static shock.

    Why can't they make voting systems that are just as hard to hack?

    I think that the NGC should look at the voting system to see how bad they are.

    • by systemeng (998953) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:33PM (#25241417)
      I always post this on voting machine articles but here goes. . . Take a look at 1.020 in the attached nevada gaming regulations: http://gaming.nv.gov/documents/pdf/techstds_05nov17_adopted.pdf [nv.gov] Slot machines are required to withstand 20,000V static shocks at 1 second intervals with no problems whatsoever. They are also required to withstand 27,000 volt static zaps which can cause them to freeze momentarily but must cause no loss of any stored data.

      In contrast, when I worked on DDR SDRAM clock buffer chips for PC's, I believe the ESD test was something like 1500 volts.

      In short, if voting machines cannot meet the Nevada gaming commission regulations then politicians are at best gambling with our votes.
  • by Pinckney (1098477) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:23PM (#25241349)

    You can read the board's report on their site [dcboee.org] [pdf].

    Highlights include the following:

    Sequoia was the manufacturer of the machines.

    They don't know why the error happened. It could have been static, or many other things. The board "accepts Sequoia's determination,reflected in its response to the board's queries, that multiple possibilities regarding the cause of the tabulation error exist, including: the speed which the Memory Packs were processed leading to some type of transient malfunction in the MPR unit; the Memory Pack not making full contact inside the MPR socket; or some type of electrical or static discharge taking place while inserting,reading or ejecting the cartridges at a rapid speed."

    "Random numbers" were added to vote totals. They say nothing about write-in votes, except that their procedure calls for auditing vote tallies by looking for "large write-in vote numbers, more recorded votes than registered voters".

    The errors were confined to precinct 141 in ward 2.

    They recorded 4759 votes, while their audit found that only 326 were cast.

  • Yes (Score:4, Funny)

    by John.P.Jones (601028) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:26PM (#25241379)

    Static electricity generally has very high voteage, but not much power, due to a small current.

  • Because it is a black box, from all I know: Yes

    There needs to be a paper trail that the voter can verify his/her vote was correct.

    If you allow them to say static cast votes, they'll be reusing that excuse over and over whenever they're caught rigging an election.
  • by nilbog (732352) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:32PM (#25241413) Homepage Journal

    Okay, no joke - I have this big "Yahoo" button that they sent me for doing search marketing with them. It's basically the same as one of those easy buttons you see from Staples.

    I have it sitting on a ledge over my stairs. Every time you touch the wall and discharge static electricity, it goes off. Curious, I did some further testing. I found that if I put the button anywhere near an electrical field (such as that created by one of those lightening ball gizmos) it will go off. I cannot explain it other than they are using a very sensitive switch.

    It goes to show that static electricity CAN throw a switch though.

    Perhaps they are using the same electronics here?

  • by Mr_Tulip (639140) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @10:05PM (#25241587) Homepage
    In my mis-spent youth, I was able to get free credits from certain arcade machines by holding the exposed part of a lighter (the piezo-ignition type) against the coin slot, and pressing button to set off the electric charge. Every 10 or so 'clicks' would result in a free credit. If these voting machines are susceptible to static electricity, using a clicker on it would likely cause some sort of mischief as well. Oh well, back to the old lead pencil and paper voting, I say :)
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @10:57PM (#25241845)

    "Strange Days"

    Well, here we are.

    I don't know if it's food poisoning or what. . . I ate some grocery store chocolate chip cookies from a box and I've had a head-ache for two straight days since while hurricane Ike or whoever has been raging outside my window playing hell with the barometrics, and the economy and politics and everything slipped past some kind of breakpoint. . .

    The whole illusion of 'normal' has been filled with glitches for a long while now, but it's been really bad lately. All this week, in fact. --Partly because while looking over that whole "The Fed Borrows All Money From a Private Consortium at Interest" thing, and wondered if it applied in Canada as well. (It does, just with a little more complexity, because I think Canadians are slightly harder to fool than their American counter-parts. Not because they're any smarter, but they've just had better mind-resources.) Anyway, it's a whole giant scam, this money thing, designed to create debt-slavery.

    But then I realize that there is a level above even that. Just another illusion.

    --Because, you see, it's not just banks which create money out of thin air. Everybody does. Farmers create wealth out of the ground, and people eating food destroy that wealth, or convert it into potential, but the paper stuff continues to exist regardless of the state of the material wealth it has been attached to. It struck me that there are two economies; one made out of actual energy and material wealth, and a second one made of paper money and bank-data which is supposed to track with and serve the real economy. Right? Economics 101. But the second economy, which has never been able to keep up with the ineffable reality of true energy and wealth, has flown out of control into its own daydream, and now a nightmare. And now it is crashing, or so we're told. But so what? The material wealth is still there, right? We still grow food and eat food and do all the things we do in between, we live, but the daydream world is spinning and drowning in it's own visions. Will people starve? Will they riot and die? Why should any of that happen? Because of an illusion?

    So the head-ache floats around the back of my skull and the air pressure jumps and sinks every thirty seconds, and none of it seems particularly real.

    The voting system is a mess. Everybody knows that. And everybody also knows that even if it worked properly, neither candidate is up to the task of facing reality. Is Obama going to declare, "That's it. --We're printing our own money at zero interest from now on to break the chains of debt-slavery held in the fists of the old super-wealthy families which run the world! Heck, let's declare war on them. And while we're at it, let's break our ties to Israel; it's insane that our military might should be controlled by the Zionist desire to kill everybody who isn't a Jew! Heck, while we're at it, let's ditch this whole insane religion thing altogether. It's clearly making everybody nuts. Let's pull back the camera and look at what's actually happening on this globe of ours."?

    Not going to happen. All the two candidates are battling over is the better way to re-establish the illusion of 'normal'.

    But I'm tired of illusions! What good is an illusion? We'd all just have another few weeks, months, years to do what? Play video games and watch TV? To fart around and wish for love and the next cool gadget. Well, it looks like I'll be getting my wish. As one illusion morphs into the next, there are all these little tears and exit points where you can see what's really happening. Not that illusions are bad. They can be fun; There has been a lot of neat stuff to do here. I just don't understand why so many people are so angry, why they want their guns and their versions of their daft religions at all costs. Why the missiles, and the psychotic people, and the greed and mean-spirited behavior? If that's what they want, then fine, let the whole thing crash, because I don't want to put up with it anymore.

    Heck all I really want is for life to be a happy place. With better cookies.

    My head hurts.

    -FL

  • by vandan (151516) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @11:06PM (#25241883) Homepage

    With half of US voters not bothering to turn up, and the other half voting for the 2-party system, I think the entrance of static electricity to the mix would be a breath of fresh air.

  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @11:17PM (#25241951)

    Yes, it is entirely possible for static electricity to cause problems in direct recording electronic voting machines. It depends on the relative humidity on election day and on other factors such as the floor covering in the polling place.

    According to the Electrostatic Discharge Association (http://www.esda.org/) the typical static voltage generated by someone walking across a rug on a dry day is 35000 volts. The voting machines are tested to only 15000 volts. The internal circuitry of the voting machines is designed to work at around 3 volts and the chips may be internally protected to about 100 volts. A human can't feel the discharge if it is below about 3000 volts.

    ESD can cause latent failures in the chips. The protection gets punched through and something later triggers the actual failure.

    Touch screens are vulnerable to ESD, and the cheaper the screen the more vulnerable. In some touch screens, the discharge goes around the edge of the screen and into the electronics.

    The memory modules are also vulnerable. However, even though the machines are opened as part of the polling place opening and closing, the machines are not tested open, and the individual components are not tested.

  • I call bullshit! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @11:29PM (#25242013) Homepage
    Because computers have been pretty static electricity resistant for a number of years now.
  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @11:41PM (#25242077) Homepage

    I wonder how many mod points can I generate if i just touch thi

  • by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Friday October 03, 2008 @12:32AM (#25242339)
    Speaking as someone who HAS done some design work, designing any machine that's going to be used by the general public without considering various modes of tampering or failure is the mark of a PISS POOR design effort. I'd expect that they'd at least approach it as if it were a video gambling device of some sort (poker, slot machine, etc) and test it for things like tampering using a high voltage discharge. If this story is true then all those machines should be pulled from use and either warehoused until the original vendor can revise the design, or completely destroyed and sent to the scrap yards.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 03, 2008 @12:43AM (#25242381) Homepage

    The Nevada Gaming Commission has been there and done that. Here are their standards for immunity to static electricity for slot machines. [nv.gov] Every slot machine in Nevada meets these standards. (Yes, they test.)

    1.020 Electrical interference immunity.

    1. A conventional gaming device or client must exhibit total immunity to human body electrostatic discharges on all player-exposed areas. For purposes of this standard, a human body discharge is considered to be an electrical potential of not greater than 20,000 volts DC discharged through a network with a series resistance of 150 to 1500 ohms shunted by a capacitance of 100 to 150 picofarads. The device must withstand this discharge repeated at one second intervals. The power source for this human body equivalent is a high-impedance source such that, in effect, the energy available for a given discharge is limited to that contained in the shunt capacitor.
    2. A gaming device may exhibit temporary disruption when subjected to electrostatic discharges of 20,000 to 27,000 volts DC through a network with a series resistance of 150 to 1500 ohms shunted by a capacitance of 100 to 150 picofarads, but must exhibit a capacity to recover and complete an interrupted play without loss or corruption of any stored or displayed information and without component failure.
    3. Gaming device power supply filtering must be sufficient to prevent disruption of the device by repeated switching on and off of the AC power. The device must not exhibit disruption when a 1 microfarad capacitor, charged to plus or minus 680 volts DC is discharged between the hot and neutral AC supply lines, at any phase from zero to 360 degrees, with a repetition rate of 30 times per second.

    In other words, short of firing a Taser at the thing, you can't interfere with a slot machine with static electricity. (And if you did fire a Taser at the thing, alarms would go off.)

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday October 03, 2008 @05:02AM (#25243431) Journal
    An electric discharge, changing a single byte in memory, of a value of 1500 has simply no chance of happening.

    At the extreme limit, rebooting, frying components *could* happen in an extremely badly designed machine. I think that the "experts" who state such a thing should be tried, either for incompetence or, more probably, for lies. I think that at this point, it is a legal offense.

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