Amid allegations and fear of cyber-meddling in polls abroad, the Election Commission (EC) has initiated an unprecedented drive to protect its voter registration database and office networks from unauthorised influence and access during the Lok Sabha polls next year. A chief information security officer in Delhi and a cyber security nodal officer in each state; regulations on cyber security exclusively for the Commission; third-party security audit of all poll-related applications and websites; workshops to train officers in cyber hygiene; and a proposal to recognise elections as ‘critical information’ under the IT Act, 2000. These are the key steps taken by the EC over the last nine months to secure elections from cyber threats, The Indian Express has learnt.
“Elections across the globe have become a frequent target in the modern digital era,” said an EC official in a thinly veiled reference to allegations by USA and some European countries that Russia interfered in their polls. “A cyber attack, irrespective of the actual damage caused, spreads misinformation and can delegitimise a democratic process. Hence, for the first time, cyber security is part of election planning,” he added.
Although the poll watchdog is confident that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter verifiable paper audit trail machines (VVPATs) are not vulnerable to hacking — since these are stand-alone units not connected to any network — its increasing dependence on digital technology and the internet for voter registration, electoral roll management and result dissemination, among other things, calls for strengthening of safeguards, said sources.