Swiss e-voting systems lack transparency and are vulnerable to attack by malevolent software, a study has found. The authorities are looking for solutions but officials point out that there is no such thing as absolute security, even with the traditional ballot paper vote. With the systems used so far in electronic voting trials “citizens cannot verify if their vote has been registered and counted correctly. They are obliged to trust the administration and authorities completely,” Eric Dubuis, information technology professor at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, told swissinfo.ch. Under the mandate of the Federal Chancellery, Dubuis co-authored a study on verifiable e-voting systems – systems that allow the voter to trace all the steps of his or her vote and to check that there has been no manipulation and that the vote has been duly counted.
The Bern researchers came up with a project system that allows each individual to verify the process from A to Z, without compromising voting secrecy. Thanks to a special autonomous “electoral machine” with an integrated camera as well as a personal voting card with a chip, the system set up by the researchers also eliminates the risk connected to malevolent software – or malware.
The danger currently arises from the fact that the computers used for online voting are outside the control of the authorities supervising the election. And all the users do not have the necessary technical knowledge to notice the intrusion onto their computers of malware which can violate the secrecy of the vote, modify it or even cancel it. The Bern university specialists deem the passage to second generation systems such as those that they have conceived to be “highly desirable”. The need for change is also underlined by canton Zurich which is running a pilot e-voting programme. Last year it decided to take a break to review its system.