New Hacking Defenses To Be Given To World’s Most High-Tech Voting System

Estonia is taking steps to fend off potential hacking attacks as cyber-security fears intensify and it is the only country in the world where voters elect their leaders through online balloting.

According to Tarvi Martens, the National Electoral Committee’s head of e-voting, a software overhaul for the system, introduced in 2005, is ready for testing before local elections in October.

He said that security concerns from groups such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would be addressed by the upgrade that includes anti-tampering features known as end-to-end verifiability.

“End-to-end verifiability is the ‘Holy Grail’ for electronic voting,” Martens said this month in an interview. “When we talk about international criticism, the new software now addresses it.”

After the U.S. said Russia hacked its 2016 presidential election, this Bottom of Form

Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is on the alert. This country files 99 percent of tax returns online, hosts NATO’s cyber-defense center and is a technology hub that helped create Skype.

In relation to a massive cyber attack 10 years ago that disabled government, media and banking websites for hours, kremlin had been blamed by Estonia which is an unwilling member of the Soviet Union for 50 years. There have bene constant denials by Russia with relation to the U.S. or Estonia incidents.

Prime Minister Juri Ratas said last week in an interview that “daily work is needed to improve its security as any breach would undermine the credibility of the entire system” even while almost a third of votes were cast electronically in Estonia’s 2015 general elections.

And citing “major” security risks, the suggestions of an “immediate withdrawal” of Estonian internet voting was given by an expert group led by University of Michigan Professor Alex Halderman in 2014.  I n the following year, end-to-end verifiability was urged to be ensured by the Estonian government by the OSCE. E-voting is desired to be discontinued by some members of the ruling Center Party.

Voters must clear two levels of authentication protected by pass codes and they will also need to verify a valid ID card in order for them to cast their ballot. The system can’t be breached, said the Estonian Information System Authority, which oversees the government’s cyber security.

Compared to the system that is used in the U.S., Estonia’s system is very different, Martens says. Incursions into voter databases and software systems were among the hacking that was done during the attacks on America.

“The problems in the U.S. aren’t about internet voting — they’re about voting machines,” Martens said. “There are a lot of machines and no one is able to oversee the software that goes into each one. With internet voting, there’s a single piece of software that can be controlled.”

(Adapted from Bloomberg)


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