Following Utah’s story with blockchain voting in the 2020 presidential election, some security experts have stepped up their criticism of the idea.
Earlier this week, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a draft of an article titled Going from bad to worse: from internet voting to blockchain voting. The document follows the release of an MIT report in February that explored vulnerabilities in the Voatz blockchain voting app.
The new document recognizes concerns citizens and officials may have about current election security, but the authors say that while a blockchain voting option would result in higher turnout, the method is not secure enough.
“Online voting systems are vulnerable to serious failures: larger-scale attacks, harder to detect and easier to execute than similar attacks against paper-based voting systems,” the newspaper read. “Additionally, online voting systems will suffer from such vulnerabilities for the foreseeable future given the state of computer security and the high stakes of political elections.”
The paper rejects the idea that a blockchain component would make online voting more secure. The authors admit that at first glance, the characteristics of blockchain seem to make it a good solution. However, too many potential weaknesses remain.
“Blockchains use consensus protocols to avoid a single point of failure; these protocols can tolerate a small number of participants acting maliciously, ”the newspaper said. “These ideas appear to be useful for electronic voting: for example, using cryptographic signatures to make it difficult to tamper with votes, and using hashing and distributed consensus to maintain a vote log that attackers cannot tamper with. unless they co-opt a large part of the network. However, it is extremely difficult to make these techniques work reliably in practice. ”
One of the main limitations of blockchain voting is that, despite the promise of its more secure structure, it still requires the use of “potentially vulnerable network devices and infrastructure”. Additionally, the article describes a number of “new issues” that blockchain introduces. For example, the authors point out that it would take “more time and effort to deploy security patches” in a decentralized blockchain-based system, if new software updates are needed to combat potential attacks.
Later that week, the newspaper’s argument received some rejection from Pete Martin, CEO of Votem, a company that deals with blockchain voting. Martin expressed his disagreements with the newspaper during a Decrypt daily Podcast.
Martin said academics, like scientists at MIT, can poke holes in anything. In doing so, academics may forget that “there is a real world out there.”
Martin also referred to specific claims in the document. One of his criticisms concerns the verification of ballots.
“[The researchers] believe that a hand-marked paper ballot is the most verifiable type of ballot for voters, ”said Martin. “The problem is, there is a concept of voting called chain of custody. The minute you drop it in the mail, the minute you drop it in a mailbox, you’ve lost the chain of custody. ”
With that in mind, Martin explained that most of the 2020 ballots lacked “true end-to-end verifiability.” He then said that the blockchain could enable such a thing.
Such debates are likely to continue in the near future, especially if governments consider potentially expanding the use of blockchain voting. Utah now has a legislative proposal to open up mobile voting within its borders.
Amelia Powers Gardner, a county clerk / auditor who oversaw the use of blockchain voting in Utah County, Utah, and one of the Government technology The 25 Best Practitioners, Dreamers and Drivers for 2020 spoke about the proposed bill to the Utah Interim Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.
“This allows us to do a little controlled pilot so that we can prove this technology,” Gardner said, according to Salt Lake City Tribune. “So in 10 years, when the vast majority of our constituents demand it, we’ve had a chance to test it, try it, push it, push it and make Utah remains the gold standard. in the nation. “
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