Three researchers with the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3) are questioning whether, as some proponents claim, blockchain technology will be able to change the internet voting sector for the better.
In an article published by Business Insider, the scholars argue that while blockchain technology might serve to revolutionize other industries, internet voting might be a sector that doesn’t benefit from the technology at all, and could potentially even be harmed by it.
Potential For Change
The researchers start off by acknowledging that they understand why blockchain technology is being considered as an option to optimize internet voting. There is little doubt in the fact that the cryptocurrency world has attracted billions of dollars for legitimate reasons and that it has clear potential to revolutionize everything from the global payments sector, to logistics, to retail, to land ownership rights, among other sectors.
The immutable nature of blockchain means that one would naturally consider the fact that elections might be less susceptible to fraud if the technology is utilized. However, the three researchers argue that the basic issues with internet voting cannot be addressed, even by blockchain.
It’s Too Broken
While voting from a smartphone seems like a logical technological development, many cybersecurity experts have pointed out that it’s much more complicated than one might believe. While the convenience of online voting might lead to more participation, many in the cybersecurity world come to the same conclusion as Ron Rivest, a professor at MIT and board member of Verified Voting. He said, “Voting is too important to put online.”
Blockchain technology is known to be extremely secure, but the researchers point out that this doesn’t mean that most hardware and software are not themselves vulnerable, security-wise. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the fact that internet outages occur, as well.
Security experts are still working to understand the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The fact that foreign governments and other adversaries will exploit every technical vulnerability possible to influence an election certainly doesn’t bode well for internet voting, even if it implements blockchain to maintain transparency.
In fact, the fact that blockchain is so secure might actually work against it. While it might sound counterintuitive, consider this: just because the blockchain is secure, that certainly doesn’t mean that the computing device used to vote in the election is hack-proof. If a phone is infected with malware that switches your vote at the last minute, the blockchain will record the vote safely, but it will obviously not be the right vote. As a result, the entire election could be compromised in this manner.
There is also the possibility of vote buying to evolve to a new level, given the anonymity and decentralization of blockchain technology. This shouldn’t be downplayed, as there have been elections where votes have been influenced for less than the cost of a tank of gas.