USI Update on USIvote issues

Funding Preferendum 2012
Day 1 Update by the Union of Students in Ireland

To Whom It May Concern

Some issues have been raised by students, Students’ Unions and graduates about
the voting process in the online USI Funding Preferendum.

USI would like to clarify the following issues.

It should be noted from the outset that the system used for authentication is not
software designed for or by USI and is provided by HEAnet, see below for more
information.
How the process works.
The process for students voting is; a student logs on to http://www.usi.ie to cast their vote,
they select their college, they are then transferred over to a server in their college
where they enter their username and password as if they were logging into a
computer on campus. Their college then checks if they are a current student and
provides this along with a unique identifier, not related to their student number, and
transfers the student back to the usivote.com server to allow them to vote if, and
only if they are a current student. The unique identifier is used to ensure that the
student can only vote once. It is important to point out that USI receives no personal
information about the student at any point in the process as all verification and
generation is carried out by the students’ own college on their servers.

Graduates being able to vote
The process outlined above is a tool called Edugate, provided by HEAnet. HEAnet is
the IT infrastructure provider for all Irish Higher Education Institutions, the Public &
Civil Service including Government Departments and Leinster House. HEAnet
provides Edugate for a number of purposes including verification of student status
used to operate campus car parks, education discounts on computer products such
as the Apple Education Store Discount, online voting in a number of colleges and
the ability to access computers and IT services in another college’s campus.
Each individual college maintains its own database of current students, i.e. the same
database used for registration, examinations etc. It has transpired today a small
number of colleges have not kept their databases up to date and this has allowed
some recent graduates to cast a ballot. As part of the Edugate system each college
is required to keep their database up to date. Only each individual college has
access to its own database.

How this issue is being resolved
Throughout the entire process we have been in constant communication with
HEAnet and as soon as we became aware of this issue, it was immediately brought
to the attention of HEAnet.
As the databases of some colleges still contained students who have graduated, or
progressed to another course using a different student number, some graduates
have been able to vote, and some students who have progressed to another course
have been able to vote twice.

Each of the small number of colleges affected by this issue is now auditing and
updating their databases. At the close of polls, the unique identifier codes for each
ineligible person in the database will be crosschecked against all votes cast. If it is
discovered that any person who not a current registered student has voted, their
identifier code will ensure that their ballot shall be deemed void and not included as
part of the counts.

At no point in this process will the identity or person details of any person be
revealed. This process will not identify any individual student or graduate but will
ensure that only the votes of currently registered students are counted.

Twitpic purporting to show someone has gained access to usivote.com

Earlier today there were claims that a user had been able to access the
administration panel of the USI voting system.

The USI Voting system is running as three
modules: http://www.usivote.com, vote.usivote.com and the Edugate connector – these
three systems are completely independent.
http://www.usivote.com is the physical website where the pages explaining the
preferendum are located. When a user begins the voting process they move to the
vote.usivote.com module.

Nobody at USI has access to log into the administration of vote.usivote.com. Even it
was possible to log into the administration system of vote.usivote.com there is no
ability to actually view or tamper with votes.

Secondly, the system also has a safety mechanism built in where it automatically
shuts down and will refuse to accept any updates once the election starts. This
means there is no way to change the election or modify votes once it has begun.
The image posted online earlier showed a view of a status panel for the Edugate
connector. This screen was an online tool used by our web development company to
show which colleges were active on the system. It is a status panel and will not let a
viewer change anything. This panel was used for testing purposes and does not
affect the live vote.


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3 thoughts on “USI Update on USIvote issues

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » USI Update on USI vote issues

  2. Pingback: USI ‘preferendum’ in tatters, after voting and hacking errors discovered | StudentNews.ie, Ireland's third level news website

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