A group of trained engineers and scientists, from India and abroad (drawn primarily from IITs and other premier science institutes), have, in response to the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the electronic voter machines. However, the 27-member group has said that for a truly objective and fair assessment of the machines and “to understand what kind of tampering is possible, actions that might be performed by an insider in the process, or a criminal, should be allowed during the challenge.” In this regard, the group noted that the EC had in 2009 prevented some type of access – when it disallowed physical tampering – and therefore “it should explain why an insider or a criminal would not have that kind of access”. … Poorvi L. Vora, professor of computer science at the George Washington University and a member of the group, wrote in an article that “the Election Commission should allow experts a reasonable amount of time to examine machines whose entire design has been secret for so many years. The experts should be able to work in a laboratory space of their choosing, with the freedom to fully explore the system and its vulnerabilities, including physical tampering, as any attacker with some access to a single storage locker might have.”
For its part, the group said, “from a technical perspective, such allegations are best addressed by auditing VVPAT records where they exist.” Additionally, it said, “independent of the outcome of the challenge, the EC should check the outcome of each election by creating, maintaining and auditing VVPAT records.”
The group said, “independent of the outcome of the EVM challenge, the EC should enable the creation of VVPAT records, ensure their secure storage separate from the EVMs, and conduct regular VVPAT audits for each election.” The audits, it said, should involve the examination of a randomly-chosen subset of the VVPAT records.
The scientists and engineers also spelt out how they would like the EVM challenge to proceed to enable proper understanding of “EVM security strengths and weaknesses”.