Software To Guard Against Hacking of 2020 Electronic Voting
ElectionGuard, an open-source software, which is designed to restore trust in electronic voting, is designed to detect hackers and provide fail safes.
“Electronic voting has really been put through the wringer the last few years with many people complaining that hackers can get into electronic voting systems and people not trusting the systems. So people have been asking to go back to paper ballots,” says Luis Alvarez of the Alvarez Technology Group. The problem with paper ballots is that tallying is more labor-intensive, he says.
Microsoft is providing the technology free to these organizations to try to “restore confidence in the voting system and to allow us to move forward rather than having to go backward with the way we vote,” Alvarez says. While no voting method, including paper ballots, is ever completely free from tampering, the software includes fail-safe mechanisms to detect hacking attempts, he says.
The software uses an encrypted tracking code which allows voters to know that their ballot has been recorded and not tampered with. It also sends a message to those at the voting station that a hack has been attempted. The software also produces paper ballots as a fallback so that if the electronic vote is hacked, the paper ballot can be used. Electronic votes can still be tallied without the need for decryption so votes are still private and will not be seen by anyone.
ElectionGuard can operate without an Internet connection and does not require that the computer it operates on be equipped with Microsoft Windows. Once voting is complete at the precinct, the data can be downloaded to a private local, state or national server.
While Microsoft is not the only firm working on election-security technology, it is the only one whose product is expected to be available by 2020. An agency of the U.S. Defense Department known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is working with an Oregon firm on open-source voting software that also uses encryption to allow voters to verify their votes. That system, however, will not be ready by 2020.