Hacker almost derailed Mandela election in South Africa
Right-wing key-puncher tried to hang on to apartheid, says new book
An unidentified voting system hacker almost derailed South Africa's first democratic elections.
Only a backup paper ballot system saved the historic 1994 election from sabotage, according to a new book from Peter Harris, the former head of the official election monitoring division. The hacking attempt involved trying to boost the count for right wing parties that wanted to retain apartheid while simultaneously swiping votes from Nelson Mandela's ANC.
The manipulation of the Election Commission computer was discovered in the early hours of the count on 3 May but the perpetrator has never been identified. The attempted electronic disruption occurred during a period of high tension and violence in the country.
"There was a right-wing conspiracy to start an armed insurrection with the help of the Defence Force," Harris said, the BBC reports, "and that resulted in a number of bombs going off to try and stop the election and cause mass panic and despair."
The April election went ahead on schedule but the result of the vote was delayed as a result of the hack attack, which was first detected by a United Nations observer. As a result the electronic count was suspended and a secondary backup manual system was brought into play, delaying the results for two days.
"The electronic count was compromised by a hacker who went in and multiplied the vote," said Mr Harris. "The electronic count was then closed down.
Nelson Mandela was ultimately declared victor of the election, a result that was "true and fair", according to Harris. ®
Electronic voting will never become safe, the temptation to tamper with it will always be there as
it is just to simple to do it. If not for every man on the street but always for those who run the election and for all those who have been taking part in the programming and installation of hardware.
All eggs in one fragile basket.
Just shows that there needs to be...
TWO separate systems. One for "voting", and one for "counting". The voting system needs to be private and have the voter verify their vote. The counting system needs to be VERY public so we can all verify the final outcome. To combine these two systems is fraud waiting to happen. It appears that we never learn this lesson, and continue to "improve" things at our peril! (*SIGH*)
There was no electronic voting
South Africa was not using electronic voting in 1994. The country used paper printouts that were tallied electronically. It was this tallying up that was tampered with, and so the old style system of manual counting was used.
It is very similar to the electronic scanning of paper votes that occurs in several first-world countries today.