90 Miles From Tyranny : Why blockchain-based voting could threaten democracy

Monday, August 12, 2019

Why blockchain-based voting could threaten democracy

As the desire to increase voter turnout remains strong and the number of online voting pilot projects rises in the U.S. and abroad, some security experts warn any internet-based election system is wide open to attack, regardless of the underlying infrastructure.

Public tests of blockchain-based mobile voting are growing.

Even as there's been an uptick in pilot projects, security experts warn that blockchain-based mobile voting technology is innately insecure and potentially a danger to democracy through "wholesale fraud" or "manipulation tactics."

The topic of election security has been in the spotlight recently after Congress held classified briefings on U.S. cyber infrastructure to identify and defend against threats to the election system, especially after Russian interference was uncovered in the 2016 Presidential election.

Thirty-two states permit various kinds of online voting – such as via email – for some subset of voters. In the 2016 general election, more 100,000 ballots were cast online, according to data collected by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The actual number is likely much higher, according to some experts.

One method of enabling online voting has been to use applications based on blockchain, the peer-to-peer technology that employs encryption and a write-once, append-many electronic ledger to allow private and secure registration information and ballots to be transmitted over the internet. Over the past two years, West Virginia, Denver and Utah County, Utah have all used blockchain-based mobile apps to allow military members and their families living overseas to cast absentee ballots using an iPhone.

Mike Queen, deputy chief of staff for West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, said that while the state currently has no plans to expand the use of the mobile voting beyond military absentee voters, his office did "a ton of due diligence" on the technology before and after using it.

"Not only does blockchain make it secure, but [the blockchain-based mobile app] has a really unique biometric safeguard system in place as well as facial recognition and thumb prints," Queen said via email after 2018 General Election.

Security experts disagree. The issues around online voting include server penetration attacks, client-device malware, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and other disruptions, all associated with infecting voters' computers with malware or infecting the computers in the elections office that handle and count ballots. 

"If I were running for office and they decided to use blockchain for that election, I'd be scared," said...

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1 comment:

  1. "It matters not who votes, but who counts the vote." - Stalin

    That's all we need to know about hair-brained ides for internet voting.