This post was written as part of my coverage of the NDP Leadership Convention for iPolitics.ca.
The NDP is learning about the triumphs and trials of “cloud politics” — online communication, engagement and especially voting.
The story coming in to the the convention had two narrative streams. There’s the established norm of a high volume of Twitter chatter and, for the first time in NDP history, online voting which allows members across the country to follow the convention on television and online, and cast their ballot through the NDP website.
Brilliant in theory. As it turns out, it can be incredibly painful in practice.
The new narrative seems to be changing with each passing moment. At first it appeared the NDP voting system was under-architected and became overwhelmed by demand; doomed because of instability. The most recent updates suggest a possible deliberate attack on the system. No matter the source of the problem, the interrupted vote is the new narrative and will be the lead story on this convention for weeks to come. If the attack turns out to be true and the police are brought in to investigate, a fresh gallon of 1.28/l gasoline will be thrown on to the fire of partisanship.
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a network security term to describe a system that fails when multiple dispersed computer systems direct more traffic at the system than it’s designed to handle. You’ve probably heard of this kind of attack. It’s been used against major credit card companies, eCommerce sites and government departments around the world in an attempt to interrupt economic and government activity. It violates the third tenet of the information security triad of Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA). Essentially, a secure system protects the privacy and quality of the data in both transmission and storage, and the data must always be available.
A DDoS is like a coordinated traffic jam on all roads leading to a particular destination. Poorly designed cities impose a DoS on fans of the local sports team on game night.
Taking voting and political engagement systems online invites adversaries to attempt interfering with business. It’s one of the many challenges presented in the age of cloud politics.
Right now there are more questions than answers. My guess is the NDP is focussed on using band aids and duct tape to hold what’s already there in place, take a few Tylenol and do what’s necessary to make sure the vote happens. The answers will have to be chased down once the hangovers are gone.