On Election Night, viewers watched in shock as Karl Rove refused to accept the call, confirmed by Fox News analysts, that Ohio had gone to Obama.
A release claiming to be from hacker collective Anonymous alleges there was more behind Rove’s freak-out than first met the eye. The group says that it foiled Rove’s attempt to steal the election in Florida, Virginia and Ohio by using the GOP’s ORCA system.
Then, following Obama’s win and Rove’s very public outburst, a group calling themselves “The Protectors,” believed to be comprised of Anonymous hackers, sent a letter to election transparency non-profit, Velvet Revolution, claiming to have thwarted attempts by GOP strategists to flip votes and rig the election in three swing states.
The letter claims that the GOP’s ORCA — a GOTV (Get Out the Vote) system — was in fact designed to rig votes in favor of Romney (although the letter does not verify this or specify how ORCA was designed to do this.) The Protectors claim that they installed a password protected firewall to block attempts to digitally rig votes:
We coded and created, what we call, The Great Oz. A targeted password protected firewall that we tested and refined over the past weeks. We place this code on more than one of the digital tunnels and their destination’s that Karl’s not so smart worker bees planned to use on election night.
The Protectors alleged these “digital tunnels” were leading to servers in three different states. The release claims that Rove’s operatives attempted to unsuccessfully breach The Great Oz firewall to access these tunnels throughout election night. “We watched as Karl’s weak corrupters repeatedly tried to penetrate The Great Oz. These children of his were at a loss-how many times and how many passwords did they try? — exactly 105.”
I can’t even being to tell you how much I want this to be true. Not so much the “Holy Crap! Karl Rove was going to steal the election” part but the “Holy Crap! A bunch of nerds in Guy Fawkes slapped the taste out of his mouth” part. And as a man who spent a good chunk of his childhood in thrall of the exploits of Zorro and The Doctor, the whole thing has a certain romance to it.
The details in the Anonymous claim are currently unverified and there are many lingering question. For one, as our own Alex Seitz-Wald pointed out via email, “they never explain how Rove was stealing the election in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. [There are] not many e-voting machines and not sure how else you’d do it.”
Secondly, it seems questionable whether the ORCA system (which belonged to Romney’s campaign, not Rove, as the Anonymous letter suggests) was capable of rigging an election — it barely functioned as a GOTV project. Writing at Ace of Spades, John Ekdah called Project ORCA an “unmitigated disaster“. He details a long list of problem that indicate the massive undertaking lacked the necessary “planning, training and coordination” to be successful.
Even without Anonymous’ alleged efforts, it is unclear that ORCA had the sophistication to rig votes. Although perhaps nefarious intentions behind the project account for its failure as a GOTV system. Again, we can only speculate — the onus is on Anonymous to provide further proof before we can believe these (albeit delicious) claims.
However, if this story is true. Then we have an even more serious problem.
If our election process can be hacked in the way Anonymous claims it can. Then anyone with the technical acuity can fix an election and thwart the will of the people. And the only thing standing between us and a possible dictatorship is the skill of a group of hackers.
And then there’s the question of Anonymous future intentions. It’s a decentralized group that functions as a hive mind. And so far, it’s been acting as a force for social justice.
What would happen if certain individuals were to guide the group away from that goal and turn it into a malevolent force, bent on domination?
I’m not saying they would turn that way. However, we should start heading back to paper ballots, just to be on the safe side.