For demonstrating flaw in India's electronic voting, researcher arrested

If you want honest, secure elections, you can’t rely on paperless electronic voting because such machines can be programmed to report whatever “results” the last person to upload code to the machine wants them to report.

But if you foolishly (or devilishly) insist on paperless electronic voting machines, you had better make sure they can’t be easily tampered with.

To ensure machines aren’t easily tampered with, countries should encourage legitimate researchers to try to hack into those machines and then fix whatever flaws they uncover. Researchers who demonstrate flaws should be thanked and rewarded.

Instead, India is doing the opposite, denying legitimate researchers access to its paperless electronic voting machines and then arresting those who manage to get access to a machine and demonstrate flaws that could be used to rig a national or regional elections:

Hari Prasad is the managing director of Netindia Ltd., an Indian research and development firm. He and other researchers have long questioned the security of India’s paperless electronic voting machines. Despite repeated reports of election irregularities and concerns about fraud, the Election Commission of India insists that the machines are tamper-proof.

In 2009, the commission publicly challenged Prasad to show that India’s voting machines could be compromised, but refused to give him access to the machines to perform a review. Earlier this year, an anonymous source provided an Indian voting machine to a research team led by Prasad, Alex Halderman, and Rop Gonggrijp. The team exposed security flaws that could allow an attacker to change election results and compromise ballot secrecy. They published a paper detailing their findings, which you can read here.

According to Halderman, Prasad was questioned Saturday morning at his home in Hyderabad by authorities who wanted to know the identity of the source who gave the voting machine to the research team. Prasad was ultimately arrested and taken to Mumbai, though reportedly hadn’t been charged with a crime.

With so many nations abandoning paper ballots and embracing unauditable paperless electronic voting machines, the only question is: Are our leaders just plain stupid or are the powerful using these machines to steal elections for their friends?

Given that Washington, DC now works for corporate America and against the interests of the vast majority of Americans and given incontrovertible proof of election theft (like Bush “beating” Kerry in Ohio in 2004), I sure believe these machines are stealing elections for pro-corporate politicians. It’s probably also happening elsewhere.

Posted by James on Thursday, August 26, 2010