e-voting risks in australia

Aussies desire E-voting in elections, but is it safe?

Australia is one of the few countries to adopt the method of casting votes electronically. However, the method is yet to be used for nationwide Federal elections.

Most Aussies are calling for the government to follow in the footsteps of the US and introduce electronic voting in the country. The clamour for a speedy outcome is understandable given the 21st century's demand for instant gratification.

The method of voting via modern ways is considered more authentic and efficient by many. However, using these modern ways will not only run the risk of introducing a whole new set of problems but will also potentially undermine the authenticity of election results.

Problems in adopting E-voting system

Entrepreneurs love to make claims that their online voting systems are safe and secure, but are unable to provide iron-clad guarantees. This, however, may not be the case. In fact, E-voting systems are deemed more risky compared to age-old method of casting physical (paer-based) votes via ballot boxes.

Vanessa Teague and Chris Culnane from the University of Melbourne, and Rajeev Gore from the Australian National University pointed out three reasons why Aussies shouldn’t move to an online voting system right now, which are:

  • The new system might not be secure,
  • The software may contain bugs
  • And most important, if something goes wrong, those associated might never know.

Major Security Hole!

During the State Elections in New South Wales in 2015, Teague and computer security researcher Alex Halderman found a "major security hole" in the NSW iVote system, which was being used for the election. Up to 66,000 votes had already been cast by the time the security flaw was found and fixed.

Solution?

Teague, Culnane and Gore claim that secure electronic voting is only possible if it’s done via “end-to-end verifiable” election system, the one which was developed with the Victorian Electoral Commission.

After casting their vote using a computer at the polling booth, the voter is then provided with evidence that their vote has been recorded exactly as they intended.

Retaining polling booths present many advantages. It prevents large-scale voter coercion, identity fraud and ensures that people can get help during the identity verification and voting process.

Even after the system has been completely verified and setup, electronic systems still present vulnerabilities and cannot be deemed completely secure. Even if the system is not connected to the internet, there is still potential for a security breach at the AEC and state electoral offices, which may disrupt the authenticity of the elections.

Recent advances in online digital encryption, like ones being used in PureVPN, might solve some of the security concerns. But majority of security issues will still remain.

For example, how will the government provide secure communications to the many thousands of temporary polling booths that are set up around Australia in the weeks and months leading up to election day.

If the electronic voting system in Australia is still somehow left vulnerable, hackers, terrorist organizations and agencies of other countries will look to exploit these vulnerabilities and disrupt the election result in their favour.

Many are already questioning the authenticity of the recent elections in the US, which were done electronically. Many claim that Russia favoured Donald Trump as US President and may have hacked and influenced the elections result in its favour.

Conclusion

Whatever the case may be, what is already clear is that the method of Electronic voting in Australia has yet to reach the standard required for it to be trusted as platform for people to cast their votes and make a change.

Sheheryar Ahmed Khan is a privacy enthusiast, currently affiliated with PureVPN. His reporting covers subjects related to online privacy, anonymity, and security. Also a believer in online freedom, Sheheryar likes to spend his free time streaming football matches and TV shows online.

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