Report: Blockchain-based Voting Systems are Vulnerable to Attacks and May Provide Low-Quality Data

Nir Kshetri, a professor of management at the University of North Carolina, says that there are some major issues that must be addressed before blockchain-enabled voting can be carried out in a safe and trustworthy manner.

Kshetri noted that “small-scale tests run so far have identified problems and vulnerabilities in the digital systems and government administrative procedures,” which should be resolved before using blockchain-based platforms. 

According to the report, these distributed ledger technology (DLT) systems must accurately verify voters’ identities, which is usually done by analyzing personal photos or videos with facial recognition software. 

Kshetri said voting tokens are anonymous and cannot help in tracing a voter’s identity. He also mentioned that many of the tests performed previously used informal ballots including student government groups and various community projects.

Kshetri expressed concerns that “even experts don’t have a way to identify every possible irregularity in online voting.” He also pointed out that most people are quite familiar with paper-based voting and it’s easy to verify and audit the results.

One major problem with blockchain-based identity verification is that large amounts of computing resources are required to verify users’ keys and associated voter information. Because of this, the keys initially assigned have been relatively easy to hack.

Devices used to cast votes may also be compromised or facial recognition software could make mistakes. Another problem with proprietary blockchain systems is that they do not allow users to verify whether the votes were cast accurately.

In November 2018, election officials in the US allowed military personnel stationed abroad to submit their votes electronically. During the same month, 144 voters living overseas were approved by West Virginia’s authorities to cast ballots from 31 countries through an app developed by blockchain voting software developer Voatz.

The state is planning to expand its pilot in the 2020 presidential election. 

On October 18, the non-profit Tusk Philanthropies teamed up with Jackson and Umatilla counties in Oregon, in order to test Voatz’s mobile elections platform. The pilot allows qualified voters to cast their votes from their mobile phones, which are secured using facial recognition software and DLT.

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