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‘20 years to hack OMRs’

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Smartmatic International Corp. has given assurance the optical mark readers (OMR) to be used in the 2016 elections cannot be hacked, saying it would take 20 years to tamper with the voting machines.

Smartmatic Philippines project manager Marlon Garcia, during a briefing on the local review of the source code of the OMR machines yesterday, said the encryption key is different for each unit.

Garcia said any effort to hack the system “is pretty much useless” because the source code is secured at all stages.

“The machines are secured, or what is known in the IT (information technology) industry (as) hardened. We remove provisions and access to whatever is not necessary. All the machines are offline all the time,” Garcia said.

He said the machines would be connected to a private network for two minutes at the longest to transmit the election results from the polling precincts to the canvassing centers.

“That’s why it is impossible for any hacker in the world to hack the system. The system cannot be hacked… we have many security layers here, not to mention the measures that we have implemented like the encryption system,” he added.

Garcia said Smartmatic had also placed firewalls and filters along the network to protect the election results during transmission.

He said the packets of information to be transmitted in the network would be filtered that only those coming from a known network would be accepted.

“We have been in the business for 15 years and nobody was able to hack the system… You cannot be overconfident about it, so we always put into place all the regular measures that are required for every election. We improve and we change,” he said.

Source code review

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) launched the review of the base source code by nine groups at the Bro. Andrew Gonzales Hall of the De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Manila yesterday.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the source code review, which would last for seven months, is one of the most important safeguards provided under the automated election law.

Bautista said there is more time for the source code review for next year’s presidential polls compared to the 2010 and 2013 elections.

“The present commission is looking to learn the lessons of 2010 and 2013 and shall endeavor to improve upon our performance in those elections. One such lesson is to provide adequate and timely opportunity for our political parties and civil society organizations to review the source code, to provide context,” he said.

In 2010, less than a month was given to review the source code while in 2013, reviewers were only given four days before elections to conduct the review. 

The local review shall be done in two phases: the first involving the baseline source codes and the second involving customization and configuration of the source code. Both reviews involve the source codes of the vote counting machines, consolidated canvassing system and election management system.

The review conforms to the international source code certification by Colorado-based Systems Lab Inc.

The Liberal Party, United Nationalist Alliance, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Unang Sigaw-Nueva Ecija, Bagumbayan Party and Lakas–CMD will conduct the local review, which starts on Oct. 12.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and Center for People Empowerment in Governance and the DLSU, being the host institution, will also be involved in the source code review.

ACIRC

ANDREW GONZALES HALL OF THE DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY

BAGUMBAYAN PARTY AND LAKAS

CODE

COMELEC CHAIRMAN ANDRES BAUTISTA

GARCIA

LIBERAL PARTY

MARLON GARCIA

NATIONALIST PEOPLE

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