Switzerland made headlines this month for the transparency of its internet voting system when it launched a public penetration test and bug bounty program to test the resiliency of the system to attack. But after source code for the software and technical documentation describing its architecture were leaked online last week, critics are already expressing concern about the system’s design and about the transparency around the public test. Cryptography experts who spent just a few hours examining the leaked code say the system is a poorly constructed and convoluted maze that makes it difficult to follow what’s going on and effectively evaluate whether the cryptography and other security measures deployed in the system are done properly. “Most of the system is split across hundreds of different files, each configured at various levels,” Sarah Jamie Lewis, a former security engineer for Amazon as well as a former computer scientist for England’s GCHQ intelligence agency, told Motherboard. “I’m used to dealing with Java code that runs across different packages and different teams, and this code somewhat defeats even my understanding.”Full Article: Experts Find Serious Problems With Switzerland's Online Voting System.
Articles about voting issues in the Swiss Confederation.
Swiss authorities are trumpeting the fact that more than 2,000 would-be hackers from around the world have taken up an invitation to try to find holes in Switzerland’s groundbreaking online voting system — and potentially earn tens of thousands of francs (dollars) if they succeed. The Federal Chancellery and Swiss regions, known as cantons, expressed satisfaction at the high response barely a week after launching a registration for IT experts to help crack a planned update to Switzerland’s 15-year-old e-voting system. Among countries in Europe, only Estonia has a similar online voting program, a Swiss official said. The effort amounts to a coming-of-age of Swiss e-voting, or online voting, systems: After over 200 trials and the rollout of e-voting already in 14 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, authorities now believe they’ve developed “completely verifiable systems” that they hope to introduce for the first time this year.Full Article: Hackers flock to hunt for cracks in Swiss e-voting system - StarTribune.com.
Worries over election hacking have led officials in Europe and the U.S. to consider a return to hand-counting paper ballots. Switzerland, however, is moving in the opposite direction, toward absentee electronic voting. It’s a useful way of keeping turnouts from falling, and the systems can be made secure and reliable. Since the scare of 2016, when U.S. intelligence services asserted that malicious Russian actors came close to hacking electronic voting systems and even cracked some voter databases, at least one country – the Netherlands – went back to counting paper ballots by hand throughout the tabulation process, not just at local polling stations. Dozens of U.S. states used hand-counting either solely or for backup in the 2018 midterm elections, and the states that failed to do so were criticized for ignoring security. … Recent research shows that electronic voting doesn’t boost interest in elections by much. In Estonia, which introduced e-voting in 2005, more than 30 percent of the vote is now cast online but the total turnout has remained stable – and low. Yet studies have also shown that having e-voting as an option can arrest a decline in turnout: Easy absentee voting is habit-forming.Full Article: Election Hacking: Bucking the Trend, Swiss Rely on Online Voting - Bloomberg.
Democracy bases its legitimacy on the promise to adequately and appropriately represent the population. However, a look at Switzerland’s system reveals some shortcomings: women, young people, foreigners and the low-qualified are often absent from political institutions. Democratic rights don’t fall from the sky. They are the achievement of brave people who demanded and fought for political rights for themselves and for their fellow citizens. Such efforts fighting for equality were also seen in Switzerland. Almost 100 years ago, the social and political situation in the country was explosive, and many were dissatisfied with living and working conditions; factory workers, in particular, felt politicians had abandoned them.Full Article: Left behind and locked out of Swiss democracy - SWI swissinfo.ch.
The Swiss government will make its future e-voting system available for a public intrusion test and is now inviting companies and security researchers to have a go at it. “Interested hackers from all over the world are welcome to attack the system,” the government said in a press release. “In doing so, they will contribute to improving the system’s security.” … A mock e-voting session is planned on the last day of the testing period, on March 24, but participants can attack the e-voting system before that, as well. To participate, companies and security researchers will have to sign up in advance of the PIT session’s official start. Signing up will give participants the legal permission to attack the system, will ensure the cash rewards will reach those who first report an issue, and it enforces a set of rules and restrictions on participants.Full Article: Swiss government invites hackers to pen-test its e-voting system | ZDNet.
The Swiss government has issued a 150,000 Swiss franc (US$149,790) challenge to online hackers; break into our new generation electronic voting system and we’ll reward you. The federal chancellery announced a dummy run election will be held from February 25 to March 24 and invited anyone who wants to display their online piracy talents to sign up at https://onlinevote-pit.ch. They can then “try to manipulate the vote count, to read the votes cast, to violate voting secrecy or to bypass security systems,” it said in a statement. The amount of the reward paid out will depend upon the level of intrusion achieved by each hacker.
Several federal offices in Switzerland are investigating whether online manipulation could affect upcoming elections, says a newspaper report. The Federal Office of Communicationsexternal link (OFCOM) has set up a government working group to look into the effects of artificial intelligence on the media and public opinion, writes the NZZ am Sonntag paper. This group was set up last September and is headed by the education and research ministry, spokesman Francis Meier told the paper. Last October Swiss intelligence chief Jean-Philippe Gaudin also warned that foreign actors could try to influence the next federal elections through online artificial intelligence, saying he would propose appropriate measures to the government.Full Article: Swiss look into online manipulation ahead of federal polls - SWI swissinfo.ch.
A committee of politicians and computer experts is launching a people’s initiative aimed at banning online voting for at least five years, putting an end on ongoing trials with e-voting in Switzerland. Representatives from right and leftwing parties on Friday said they were hoping to win pledges from 10,000 people to collect the necessary signatures for a nationwide vote on the issue. In total, the committee needs to gather at least 100,000 signatures over 18 months. They argued that the current e-voting systems were not secure, too expensive and easy to manipulate. Hacked systems could undermine trust in Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, Green Party parliamentarian Balthasar Glättli warned. People’s Party parliamentarian and Franz Grüter added the e-voting system in use could not guarantee the secure online transmission of a ballot. The move comes after parliament last September rejected attempts to block plans for the permanent introduction of electronic voting.Full Article: Opposition against e-voting project gathers pace - SWI swissinfo.ch.
Switzerland’s main business hub is very well connected globally and attracts many expatriates. But Zurich does not grant its foreign residents any say in political matters – an apparent contradiction in a country proud of its direct democracy. The authorities in Switzerland’s most populous city are now considering ways to enhance the participation of this important group. The city of Zurich has about 425,000 residents – 32% of whom do not hold a Swiss passport. Many are expats working for international or Swiss companies. They are highly skilled, hold good jobs and earn high salaries.Full Article: Zurich wants to ease political participation for non-Swiss - SWI swissinfo.ch.
Next year, Swiss authorities will put one of the country’s two e-voting systems up for attack by hackers – with a prize on offer for those who break it. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), a strong backer of online voting, has welcomed the confidence test. The test, organised jointly by federal and regional authorities, will take place over four weeks sometime in spring 2019, the NZZ am Sonntag reports. According to the newspaper, the Federal Chancellery has a budget of some CHF250,000 ($247,500) to implement the contest and pay the hackers; a figure not confirmed by the authorities themselves. Contacted by swissinfo.ch, OSA Director Ariane Rustichelli said that it was “a good sign that the Federal Chancellery, which is leading the project, is reacting to and taking seriously the fears [around e-voting]. Because, for about a year and a half now, more and more critical voices are arising, including in parliament”. The OSA, which represents the interests of the 750,000 Swiss living abroad, is a heavily involved in debates around voting rights and the rolling out of online ballots. “If we manage to show that e-voting is safe, this could boost confidence in the system,” Rustichelli said.Full Article: Swiss e-voting system to undergo ‘hacker test’ - SWI swissinfo.ch.
A hacker claims to have discovered an important weakness in canton Geneva’s e-voting system to attacks that could redirect online voters to malicious websites. The canton says it is aware of the issue and introduced countermeasures years ago. Last week, Volker Birk of the Chaos Computer Club Switzerland said he had discovered that the Geneva online voting system – the biggest in Switzerland – uses an insecure procedure to protect its web address. Birk told Swiss public television, SRF, that it took only a few minutes to discover the system’s weakness to so-called DNS cache poisoning – an attack that exploits vulnerabilities in the domain name to divert internet traffic away from legitimate servers and towards fake ones. He added that the problem had been known for decades. In a public statement on Saturdayexternal link, canton Geneva said it had been informed by SRF about the fake site, which it admitted “did not allow people to vote electronically”.Full Article: Flaw reported in Switzerland’s biggest e-voting system - SWI swissinfo.ch.
The security of e-voting in Geneva is again in doubt. In march 2015, a journalist of the RTS had shown how he had been able to vote electronically on two occasions. This time, the alert is given by the swiss broadcasting corporation SRF. The latter has proven that a hacker could very easily access the votes of the citizens. The “Chaos computer club”, an organization of hackers, which brings together about 8000 members in Europe, has indeed shown how a simple manipulation diverts the user to the official website and directed to a similar site. This fake site allows you to see the vote of the user. According to the hacker Volkler Birk, quoted by the RTS, this fault shows that “the canton of Geneva has forgotten to protect against a computer attack that dates back more than twenty years.”Full Article: The security of e-voting in Geneva questioned | The Sivertelegram.
Parliament has thrown out attempts to stall the permanent introduction of electronic voting – a decision welcomed by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Two proposals by representatives of right and leftwing parties cited data security concerns, including cyberattacks, and were aimed at effectively blocking plans by the government to conclude more than 15 years of trials and enshrine e-voting in law as a third option – besides going to the polls and the postal vote. The House of Representatives earlier this week rejected the proposals by parliamentarians of the Swiss People’s Party and the Greens, thereby refusing to draft a bill for discussion.Full Article: Opponents of e-voting suffer setback in parliament | News | Expatica Switzerland.
Zug, Switzerland, is a hub of welcoming regulation, digital currency acceptance, and blockchain-related events and companies. The local government has consistently extended a friendly hand to crypto-related projects, and its Crypto Valley Association strives to promote the region as “a global center where emerging cryptographic, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies and businesses can thrive in a safe, supportive, and vibrant environment.” … The results of the survey are nonbinding but will give the city council valuable information about public opinion. The poll will include questions about local matters and digital IDs. Residents will be asked if they would like to use their digital IDs to participate in other government services such as libraries, payment of parking fees, submission of electronic tax returns, and regular referendums.Full Article: Swiss City Zug To Trial Voting Through Blockchain Technology - ETHNews.com.
An upcoming referendum in the wealthy Alpine nation of Switzerland could be set to dramatically transform the global banking industry. Swiss voters go to the polls Sunday to decide whether the country should switch to a so-called sovereign money system. The referendum is attracting international interest because of how it reflects debates held by economists and lawmakers in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crash.Full Article: Switzerland's sovereign money referendum: Here’s what you need to know.
Online social network Facebook is allegedly planning to deploy its controversial “I’m a voter” button in Switzerland ahead of parliamentary elections next year. The Swiss authorities have not been officially informed by the US company, according to Swiss media reports. Republikexternal link, a Swiss online news magazine, on Wednesday quoted a report in the Schweiz am Wochenendeexternal link newspaper last month that Anika Geisel, manager of Facebook’s politics and government outreach team in Berlin, had met 20 politicians from all parties in Zurich on April 11. “The topic of the meeting was how candidates could benefit from Facebook’s campaign tools. It was intended as a promotional event for the technology company,” Republik.ch wrote. “One participant asked a question that had nothing to do with the marketing tools. Would Facebook be deploying its well-known ‘I’m a voter’ button in Switzerland? Yes, Geisel answered, the company was working on it.”Full Article: Will Facebook influence the 2019 Swiss elections? - SWI swissinfo.ch.
A leading data protection expert has warned of future security breaches if the government’s plan to introduce e-voting at a nationwide level goes ahead. Bruno Baeriswyl, data protection commissioner in canton Zurich, urged the authorities to give up plans, announced last April, for online voting across Switzerland. Speaking on the occasion of this year’s European Data Privacy Day at the end of January, Baeriswyl said that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections. He and other cantonal data protection commissioners argued that digitalisation could undermine democratic principles even while online systems help to simplify procedures. “The current systems for e-voting override the secret ballot in votes and elections. But it is imperative that all transactions must always be verifiable in a secure system. As a result, either we have ballot secrecy or we don’t have a secure method,” Baeriswyl said. “And this is highly risky for our democracy.”Full Article: How risky are flawed e-voting systems for democracy? - SWI swissinfo.ch.
Switzerland is often regarded internationally as a model of functioning democracy. But a closer look shows that Swiss democracy is far from perfect. The “rule of all” turns out to be the “rule of some”. It is September 24, 2017, a “voting Sunday” as we say here in Switzerland. Voters have the final say on a crucial reform of the old age pension system. This is a topic that will concern everyone, sooner or later. Over the course of the day it becomes apparent that the proposed reform isn’t getting a majority of votes and is going down to defeat. But the real letdown begins to be felt late in the evening, when the last municipalities send in their tallies to the election authorities.Full Article: Does a minority rule Switzerland? - SWI swissinfo.ch.
In order to ensure the security of online voting systems used in Switzerland, the government needs to issue a challenge to the worldwide hacker community, offering rewards to anyone who can “blow holes in the system”, says a computer scientist in parliament. Since it began in 2000, Switzerland’s e-voting project has been a matter of controversy. While some have been calling for its introduction to be fast-tracked in all the country’s 26 cantons, others would like to see the project slowed. In parliament there has been a call for a moratorium on electronic voting in the whole country for four years, except for the Swiss abroad. To put an end to all the concerns and convince the critics that security and secrecy of online voting can be guaranteed, Radical Party parliamentarian Marcel Dobler thinks there needs to be an unequivocal demonstration that systems used in Switzerland are proof against computer piracy. The best way to do this, he says, is to invite hackers to target them.Full Article: Should Swiss vote hackers be rewarded with cash? - SWI swissinfo.ch.
People with disabilities and placed under full guardianship are the only Swiss citizens who do not have the right to vote. This violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Switzerland ratified in 2014. Experts are now committed to overturning this inequality. People in this group are those with serious and long-term disabilities, that according to Article 136 of the Federal Constitutionexternal link, makes them ‘permanently incapable of judgement’. As they are unable to care for themselves, the Cantonal Protection Office for Children and Adults places them under full guardianship.Full Article: Should people with severe mental disabilities be able to vote? - SWI swissinfo.ch.