Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Election commission refutes claims by US academic of EVM vulnerability

A representative of the Election Commission of India, Alok Shukla and an American university professor, Alex Halderman clashed publicly over contradictory claims regarding the machines at an industry conference on Electronic Voting Machines. Halderman said that Electronic Voting Machines are vulnerable to tampering, when Alok Shukla denied it, reports The Hindu.

Read the whole article on Miracle Of Democracy.

This week the debate on whether electronic voting machines in India are tamper-proof reached boiling point in faraway Washington, as a representative of the Election Commission of India and an American university professor clashed publicly over contradictory claims regarding the machines.

Mr. Halderman, who said that he and his colleagues had worked with Mr. Prasad to demonstrate the vulnerability of EVMs to tampering, pleaded with Mr. Shukla to call off efforts by the ECI to have the Indian police question Mr. Prasad.

Mr. Shukla, however, pointed out that if the Indian police had sought out Mr. Prasad after his television appearance it was because he was known to have government property in his possession and that such unauthorised access to EVMs could have serious consequences for election results themselves.

The technical arguments surrounding the question of the vulnerability of EVMs to tampering were also in stark contradiction.

On the one hand Mr. Shukla, along with P.V. Indiresan, former director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, argued that “Indian EVMs are fully tamper-proof when used under complete administrative safeguards prescribed by the ECI. There is no justification in the demand for a change in the voting system.”

Yet Mr. Halderman noted that based on the experiments that he and his colleagues had undertaken they could demonstrate that EVMs were vulnerable firstly to the so-called “dishonest display” attack whereby a microcontroller and a Bluetooth radio chip could be smuggled into the device using a genuine-looking display board.

Mr. Halderman alleged that the Indian EVM was also susceptible to attack through the use of an electronic clip, which attached directly to the EVM chips and could rewrite the votes stored there. Not only could the votes be changed through this “electronic form of booth capture,” but the secrecy of election data could also be violated as the clip would allow the attacker to copy out the votes stored.

He said the paper, wax and string seals used to protect EVMs had been “widely discredited” and were entirely vulnerable to tampering. “Machines [are] stored around the country in a variety of locations, from abandoned warehouses to schools, etc. [and it is] likely many of them could be accessed by criminals, especially with the aid of dishonest insiders,” he said.

However Mr. Shukla and Mr. Indiresan denied these claims.

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