Amid suspicions of interference in the 2016 elections, states must be more careful than ever to provide heightened security in this year’s primaries. Yet, West Virginia has just introduced a more vulnerable form of voting for deployed military personnel. West Virginia is now the first state to pilot blockchain technology, to allow some deployed soldiers to vote through mobile phones. Yet cyber security experts warn that this technology, also used for cryptocurrencies, poses dangers for voting. Instead of pioneering voting’s future, West Virginia is paving the way for future election hacking. Blockchain technology addresses only part of the security process currently used by those administering U.S. elections. It’s like installing a high-tech lock and alarm system in your home, and then leaving a front door key and the alarm pass code under the doormat. The alarm system may work perfectly, but until the keys and pass codes are also secure, your home won’t be secure, either.
Blockchains are designed to keep a tamper-proof record of transactions by essentially creating a list shared with a huge network of people at once. If anyone wanted to change an entry in the list, it would be very difficult, since they’d have to simultaneously change it on every copy.
The problem, however, is that blockchain technology in voting does nothing to make sure that correct information gets put on the list in the first place. If a vote is distorted before it’s recorded, bad information gets on all the lists, and blockchain actually keeps that bad information secure. While this may not be obvious to the person voting, you can bet that hackers are aware of these vulnerabilities.