The US presidential election is fast approaching and the nation, along with the rest of the world, is waiting to see who will be chosen to run for the White House. … Yet, even though the US is among the most technologically advanced nations in the world, most of its voters cannot cast their ballots online. This is despite the fact that nowadays we can do pretty much anything in the virtual world: work, entertainment, paying bills or buying things are now part of our everyday online lives. So is internet voting really such a risk? And if so, where’s the catch? There are actually several of them. First of all, cyberspace isn’t actually as safe as everyone thinks, not even for banking or paying for for online shopping … that is if you’re not properly protected. The upside is that potential fraud affects only a small portion of all online transactions. Due to this, online merchants, banks and big companies can ‘hide’ the costs that the victims of fraud would normally have to pay. The rather unpopular downside is that everyone ends up covering these losses in the form of fees or higher prices. But this approach doesn’t apply to online voting. Who would pay for the damage done by electoral fraud? And what would be the mechanism to fix glitches, especially if they were uncovered years later? Making things ‘even worse’, voting is anonymous, so by design there should be no way to find out who rigged the results or who cast the fraudulent ballots.
Unlike an ‘old-school’ election, there is no paper trail in cyberspace and trying to achieve something similar might prove difficult. The metadata could easily be corrupted or manipulated, without leaving a trace. And let’s not forget that avoiding detection is a specialty of most types of malware.
It’s also worth mentioning that other cyber threats can mess with the electoral process, such as an army of zombie computers – aka botnets – that could overload an official election webpage or, even worse, cast thousands of ballots in favor of a preselected candidate. If the cybercriminals are skilled enough, they could actually do everything via victims’ computers.
In this equation, the price of malware is a considerable factor too. Its costs are low compared to the potential gains from manipulating an election. It might take as little as tens of thousands of dollars to rig an outcome, which is negligible compared to the vast sums invested in campaigns. Then there is the fact that some parties want to win very badly and other big players, such as corporations or other nation states, might also feel tempted to influence the final result.
Full Article: Super Tuesday is still offline. What’s the catch?.