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Technical Challenges of System Designs Hamper Making Internet Vote Secure in the UK

Published on: 26 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 28 Oct, 2020

Secure and reliable internet voting is on the horizon. The UK’s foremost experts in electronic voting (e-voting) have published a paper that sets out the technological and societal challenges that must be overcome.

Several countries have introduced limited forms of internet voting, Estonia the first to implement permanent national online voting.

Although electronic voting was introduced in the UK Parliament for the first time because of the pandemic, providing secure online voting to all, as recommended by the UK’s Digital Democracy Commission in 2015, has proved more challenging.

The new paper, written by the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) e-voting working group whose chair is the University of Surrey’s Professor Steve Schneider. Cybersecurity experts detail the issues such as the design, deployment and operations that need to be overcome to make internet voting a reality in the UK.

Key points from the paper include:

  • Cybersecurity is a critical challenge for internet voting. Technology cannot yet address the range of cybersecurity threats that could undermine an internet voting system;
  • Given the critical nature of elections and the requirement for public trust, transparency of the system design will be essential. Open reviews and trials will be necessary. The system design will need to integrate mitigation strategies that protect elections in case of a cyber-attack;
  • Internet voting should be considered as an additional voting channel rather than a replacement of traditional ones. One objective of any electoral process is to be as inclusive as possible. That solving an accessibility issue doesn’t generate a digital divide is crucial; and
  • Present technology is suitable for elections in low-coercion environments. These include elections within companies and other organisations, and for elections where the secrecy of the ballot is not required, for example, shareholder ballots or votes within Parliament.

Prof Schneider, the university’s director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, said: “The cybersecurity risks and the imperative to ensure a level playing-field during a secret ballot election makes internet voting uniquely challenging. In this report, we set out what policymakers and technical experts must do to clear the significant hurdles.”

Read the full report here.

The IET’s e-voting Working Group: Steve Schneider (Chairman), Nick Coleman, Richard Crowther, Eric Dubuis, Aggelos Kiayias, Dave Palmer, Jordi Puiggali, Awais Rashid, Mark Ryan, Barbara Simons and Thomas Zacharias.

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Responses to Technical Challenges of System Designs Hamper Making Internet Vote Secure in the UK

  1. Sue Warner Reply

    October 27, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    We can all access our tax records securely online, I really don’t understand why voting online is so much more complicated.

    Seems to me that those in charge are dragging their feet.

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