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Re: COTS scope


The IEEE Standards on Software Engineering include IEEE Std 1012-1998, which addresses this issue and could be helpful here.  The solution to the problems cited by Professor King is simply an available, Open Source, body of test programs which can be run in an automated fashion with each revision of the total system.  It would be foolhardy in the extreme to put any untested system into production; with automated testing, it is hardly a burden to rerun existing automated tests--Open Source Testing means that the test code can be supplemented by diverse contributions in the same way Open Source code is developed.  Private testing organizations can add hidden (albeit real) value but they can also be required to run Open Source Tests as part of their service.

Most election admistrators would be well advised to test their software with extensive automated tests, open to all voters, open to technical poll watchers, and supplemental to the certification of private test organizations.  Re-running these tests the week before an election would be good if any changes have been made to any part of the system.  Re-running them the day before the election and then locking down the system would also be a good idea.  Re-certification after minor operating system change is reasonably defined as the same test result from an extensive and comprehensive body of automated tests repeated on a newer version of the operating system.  Monkey testing is neither efficient nor necessary, I believe, for re-certification, and almost any set of automated test programs can be run on voting software overnight.

Let's solve the problem and not get caught up in the impossible "error-free software" wild goose chase.  The real questions are, how does it perform under test and has the test provided sufficient risk of failure to assure confidence that the behavior in use will reflect the behavior under test.

This is my personal and professional opinion, and it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.

-- Dick

Richard C. Johnson, Ph.D.
Applications Architect
Oracle Corporation

Merle King wrote:
Stan, Vince, et al -

The question that I intended to ask during the teleconference of Nov.
30... Under this proposed scope, how will warranty work on the equipment
be addressed?  If each time a defective driver or other COTS component
is identified and a warranty recall is issued (example: recent recall by
Dell for a defective driver for their RAID configuration used on central
tabulation machines), how will this impact requalification of a system?
The owners of the systems (jurisdictions) will want to take advantage of
warranty work while still covered by the warranty.   If the warranty
work requires the entire system to be requalified...that could be
impractical, given the time and expense involved, as well as the
potential quantity of warranty claims over the life of the unit.

- Merle

Merle S. King
Chair, CSIS Department
Kennesaw State University
1000 Chastain Road, MB #1101
Kennesaw, GA  30144-5591
voice: 770-423-6354; fax: 770-423-6731

"Stanley A. Klein" <sklein@CPCUG.ORG> 11/22/2004 10:37:40 AM >>>
When P1583 was last balloted, there were numerous comments to the
that COTS should not be exempt from inspection.  An STG was set up to
resolve those and other comments regarding COTS.

The resolution generally was that COTS should undergo the exact same
testing as any other parts of a voting system, unless it had been
previously tested and certified as satisfying the requirements of the

It seems to me that the proper procedure is to incorporate the
resolutions into the P1583 draft and move forward with the document.

We are working to replace an FEC standard that is widely agreed to be
inadequate.  The recent election resulted in numerous reports of
problems with voting systems that can easily be attributed to the
inadequacy of both the FEC standards and the ITA certification

The COTS exemption is a major, glaring loophole in the FEC standard.
Given the technical alternatives for vendors and the procedures used
other mission critical systems, there is absolutely no reason for
allowing the COTS exemption to remain.  Of course it will be initially
inconvenient for vendors, but any meaningful upgrade of the FEC
will involve some initial inconvenience for vendors.

>From my perspective, I see the leadership of P1583 slipping back into
the kinds of process games that just a month or two ago they agreed to
stop playing.  Their credibility is now on the line, and by
the credibility of IEEE Standards as it relates to an issue with major
national attention.

Stan Klein

On Mon, 2004-11-22 at 08:31, R. Mercuri wrote:
Herb --

I would like to add my voice to Vince's with regard to the
attempted replacement of our sub-group's work by material submitted
by Sandy, who isn't even a member of P1583. We were offended
at the meeting when it was suggested that Sandy replace us
as the co-chairs of the working group, and that materials be
fed to him, rather than us.  We had asked NUMEROUS TIMES for
input, so if that is going to be provided, it should be to
Vince and myself, not Sandy. Sandy is welcome to make suggestions,
of course, but not as a co-chair of the COTS-STG. We had also
provided material from our sub-committee for the draft document
that was not included, despite REPEATED requests to do so, and
this situation continues to be remiss.

Now it seems that the entire standard will be compromised through
COTS exemptions.  Sandy's comment "code review of COTS software
cannot ensure that the COTS firmware/software is failsafe"
could be equally applied to the entire voting product --
why bother to have code review at all???  BECAUSE white box
AND black box testing are NECESSARY to reveal different
sorts of problems, such as VULNERABILITIES.  Additionally,
the code MUST be available in order to provide assurances
and evidence if later problems arise. There are certainly
ways in which vendors can contract with suppliers to provide
their code -- the choices they make can/should include products
that already are open to review (such as Linux or BSD-based).

The bottom line is that there's no point in having a voting
system standard if parts of the ballot casting and tabulation
system are going to be exempt. It is bad enough that the standard
does not require any auditability feature to provide independent
recounts -- but to further allow non-inspected components, just
makes the whole thing a joke.

I seriously hope that this issue can be resolved appropriately,
Rebecca Mercuri.
Stanley A. Klein <sklein@cpcug.org>