A team of researchers in Athens say they’ve designed the world’s first encrypted e-voting system where voters can verify that votes cast actually go to the intended candidate. The process happens on a distributed, publicly-available ledger, much like the blockchain — the peer-reviewed software architecture that underpins bitcoin. The digital ballot box, called DEMOS, decreases the probability of election fraud as more voters use the system to verify their votes. The voting system starts by generating a series of randomized numbers. Each voter gets two sets of numbers, or ‘keys’: a key corresponding to the voter, and a key that corresponds to the voter’s preferred candidate. This is akin to the blockchain’s private and public key combination which authenticates bitcoin transactions.
… While e-voting has been tested for years, it has largely failed to take off due to security concerns. Last year, Norway ended its trials after voters expressed security concerns, theNorwegian government said in a statement. Other governments have been wary of implementing e-voting, fearing possible accusations of fraud; that vote secrecy wouldn’t be guaranteed or that results could be hacked and manipulated. In the Netherlands, a 2008 plan to elect officials to the country’s water management organizations was scrapped after tests showed hackers could break into the system, said Leontine Weesing-Loeber, a former legal adviser to the Dutch Electoral Council.
Aggelos Kiayias, professor of cryptography and computer security at the University of Athens, who works on DEMOS, said that committed hackers could potentially find ways around the system. Encrypted numbers attributed to voters and to their candidate have to be generated by a “clean” computer – one that hasn’t already been compromised by hackers. Extra security would also have to be in place to make sure the identification keys are not intercepted and manipulated when they travel from the computer to the voter and back.
“We cannot guarantee our system won’t be hacked. The authorities may jam the Internet or hack the computer that generates the codes,” said Zhang.