The economics of stealing an election

Crypto-Gram, April 15:

Democrats could have gained the majority in the House by switching less than 1/4 of one percent of the total votes -- less than one in 250 votes. [...] In contested House races in 2002, candidates typically spent $3M to $4M, although the highest was over $8M. The outcomes of the 20 closest races would have changed by swinging an average of 2,593 votes each. Assuming (conservatively) a candidate would pay $1M to switch 5,000 votes, votes are worth $200 each. [...]

In 2002, all the Congressional candidates together raised over $500M. As a result, one can conservatively conclude that affecting the balance of power in the House of Representatives is worth at least $100M to the party who would otherwise be losing. So when designing the security behind the software, one must assume an attacker with a $100M budget.

Tags: , ,

9 Responses:

  1. scosol says:

    cryptogram is a great newsletter no?
    Bruce is one of my favorite guys to read-

    • m4dh4tt3r says:

      bruce is a fabulous writer. one of the best technical writers of our time. i would say he's on par with richard feynman in his ability to distill difficult concepts into clear and cogent explanation.

    • torgo_x says:

      On this topic, I also like <lj user="risks_digest">.

  2. m4dh4tt3r says:

    scary ain't it?

    i conjecture that all of the electronic voting machine manufacturers are amateurs when it comes to security. they have ignored all of the fundamentals of good security: peer review, understanding your threat model, following common practice. conspiracy theorists would state that this is by intent. i have no opinion, but it does concern me about the future of our country.

  3. devpreed says:

    Nice to know you can buy the power of the United States Federal government for so little as $100 million.

    Talk about a fire sale.

  4. luserspaz says:

    I dunno, it sounded to me like he just made up some numbers. I didn't see anything really revelatory in there.

  5. legolas says:

    I'm sort of missing one thing here (although I'll admit I didn't read the article). I'd say you (may) have 2 attackers with at least $100M each, but with opposite goals. That should make it a whole lot more interesting ;-)

    Still scary however. However, is it really that different from buying your way to the white house by having more funds for your campaign (or by having a brother in the right place...)?