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EVM tampering row: Plain noise with zero substance

You don't hack a dummy device to prove the vulnerability of EVMs, which are, in fact, very robust

Aparna Banerjea  |  New Delhi 

Bilari bypolls
Poll officials checking EVMs. When the machines are finally allocated, no one, not even the Election Commission knows which EVM is headed for which constituency. Photo: PTI

The of India’s open challenge to try and hack the tamper-proof (EVMs) has generated considerable interest about the security and credibility of these machines. After a deluge of accusations made by some opposition parties, the ECI’s ‘Hackathon’ meeting ended on Friday with a detailed presentation on the security of EVMs by the Commission's top brass. ECI had invited parties to try and hack these machines for a period of two days. While the ECI did what it could to establish the robustness of these devices, doubts still linger about whether or not EVMs are completely impregnable and if so, what is it that makes them so secure.

A press release issued by the ECI after the categorically asserts the invulnerability of EVMs, and debunks all claims of the machines being hacked by any individual or party. The devices that were tampered with at the hackathon, the release says, were look-alikes of and not the genuine kind that the ECI uses. The release goes on to say that any machine made by an individual cannot be deemed as authentic and is therefore to be regarded as a mere gadget.


Every is exclusively fixed with a one-time programmable chip and it will be next to impossible to read and modify it. If any party tries to sabotage the voting system, it would need to hack and modify each and every to achieve that end.

An is a standalone machine, without connectivity of any sort, and therefore, cannot be installed with any virus as its functioning completely varies from that of computers and other devices. This is important, as a connected system, wired or wireless, can easily be manipulated.

What makes EVMs foolproof

1. Manufactured by engineers at two of the biggest Indian electronic manufacturing companies, (BEL) and Limited (ECIL), EVMs are duly evaluated, both internally and externally by several engineers. This process is known as the First Level Check (FLC) where engineers of the two companies ensure the authentic functioning of the components used in the machine. The area is highly secured with necessary restrictions and ECI records the whole process. Any defective component detected is sent back to the manufacturing unit.

2. The EVMs are protected with a high-security paper seal that is impossible to open without breaking. Ten per cent of the machines to be used in polling are then randomly selected by the representatives of the candidates, for a mock test. Each of the selected machines is fed with 1,000 mock votes.

3. Poll-bound EVMs are then randomised twice using software, in the presence of the candidates. They are then allocated to various constituencies in a manner that ensures that no one, not even the Election Commission, knows which has gone to which constituency.

4. The names of the contesting candidates are set on the ballot alphabetically in the order of and state political parties, registered political parties (excluding the and state parties) and other parties. This makes it impossible to guess the button position of any candidate before hand.

5. Prior to actual polling, another mock poll of 50 votes takes place and after the polls, the machines are sealed inside the carry case with signatures of the candidates. They are then taken to the Strong Room. The EC also allows representatives to camp in front of the Strong Room.

6. On the counting day, votes are counted in the presence of the candidates and their representatives. Counting Centres and Unique IDs of the seals are shown to representatives of candidates before they start the counting process.

Conclusion:

EVMs have played a key role in 107 Assembly elections and three elections -- 2004, 2009 and 2014. The ECI has conducted elections in 255 assembly and nine constituencies using Voters Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The use of M2 and new-generation M3 EVMs along with is the way forward for further confidence and transparency of voters.

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