Blockchain may introduce new problems to voting system, says study

Security risks can persist in Internet- and blockchain-based voting systems, says a study by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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While current election systems are far from perfect, security risks can persist in Internet- and blockchain-based voting systems, says a study by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The paper titled "Going from Bad to Worse: From Internet Voting to Blockchain Voting," comes at a time when news reports of possible foreign interference in elections, of unauthorised voting, of voter disenfranchisement, and of technological failures have called into question the integrity of elections worldwide.
The calls for blockchain-based voting grew stronger after media outlets in the US waited to announce the winner of the presidential poll until the Saturday following the election day.
Internet- and blockchain-based voting would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures, said the MIT paper.
According to the researchers, claims that "voting over the Internet" or "voting on the blockchain" would increase election security have been found wanting and "misleading".
For the study, Institute Professor Ronald Rivest of MIT's renowned Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and his colleagues analysed prior research on the security risks of online and electronic voting.

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They showed that "not only do these risks persist in blockchain-based voting systems, but blockchains may introduce additional problems for voting systems."
The paper pointed out that prior studies had shown that online voting may have little to no effect on turnout in practice, and it may even increase disenfranchisement.
"More importantly: given the current state of computer security, any turnout increase derived from with Internet- or blockchain-based voting would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast, and not undetectably altered or discarded," the researchers wrote.
"This state of affairs will continue as long as standard tactics such as malware, zero days, and denial-of-service attacks continue to be effective," they added.

First Published: Nov 16 2020 | 3:00 PM IST

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