This summer the weaknesses of voting machine security were unveiled for the world to see at the DEFCON Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA). Since then US government has committed to improving security in election process, declaring it a “national security issue,” and considering election systems “critical infrastructure /1/. This week held the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Mike Pence.
Challenges to create a complete system
A recent WIRED article interviewed a number of individuals interested in the security scare. University of Chicago researcher Jake Braun remarked that the idea that votes are safe because of the distribution of voting offices around the country (requiring a vast number of hackers and tremendous coordination to infiltrate the system) has been proved false. DEFCON founder Jeff Moss commented on the heightened concerned, explaining that one of the main challenges in voting technology creating a complete system. Backend software that connects voting machines, counts votes, and determines a winner is hard to come by /2/.
Commission scrambles for solutions
The surfacing of evidence of Russia tampering with the 2016 US election process leaves the advisory commission frantic. Matthew Masterson, chairman of the nation’s program for election system testing and certification, told Newsweek “Any effort that helps us [carry out secure elections] better is welcome /1/.”
Blockchain could be the solution they’re searching for
If that’s the case, we’re left wondering why the US is scrambling for solutions. For over a year there has been buzz about the potential of Blockchain technology to solve the voting security problem in the U.S. Blockchain would treat votes like transactions, writing them into the Blockchain and blocking them in groups after a certain number of entries. Blocks are always connected by containing the checksum of a previous block. The database is decentralised and therefore robust – when one node fails, not all data is lost.
Transparency and auditing is one of the main concerns in the race for security, seeing as a number of U.S. states use only voting machines without paper backups. Blockchain creates records that are easily auditable and highly available.
For a simple explanation of Blockchain, read more here. To the Advisory Commission: ball’s in your court.