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The Pathway to Secure Remote Voting

A recent Senate memo released this week offered a peek into the US government’s efforts to leverage blockchain technology, with security as a core focus. The memo was drafted for a roundtable aimed at exploring the “Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis.” 

It outlines COVID-19’s impact on the ability of the Senate to congregate and vote on new and upcoming legislation, forcing Congress to rethink its operations as in-person meetings become obsolete.

Watch HUB Security’s CPO Ido Helshtock online discuss Secure Remote Access in time of COVID-19 on OurCrowd webinar Cybersecurity and Insecurity.

According to the memo, any solution worth exploring will have to prove its authentication and encryption abilities. As blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, offers both transparency and encryption as benefits, it is being explored as an ideal solution.

It noted, “With its encrypted distributed ledger, blockchain can both transmit a vote securely and also verify the correct vote. Some have argued that these attributes make blockchain useful for electronic voting broadly. Blockchain can provide a secure and transparent environment for transactions and a tamper-free electronic record of all the votes.”

In fact, blockchain voting has already been creating waves and changing elections. Overseas military from West Virginia, USA for example can already vote in their local elections using just their mobile phones. A combination of encryption and blockchain registry then tallies their votes. 

Other countries like Brazil, Denmark, South Korea, and Switzerland have also already begun looking into ways blockchain voting can be used. But by far, Estonia is leading the way. Their citizens each hold unique ID cards that allow them to vote on the blockchain both quickly and securely.

Despite the many benefits, the Senate still has reservations regarding the use of blockchain - as it should. The biggest concern outlined in the memo is that the network supporting the voting infrastructure could fall into the wrong hands. Since the Senate is a relatively small entity, any blockchain network used must be able to eliminate the threat of a 51% attack.

A federal government report released in 2019 on secure online voting concluded that blockchain had not yet succeeded in resolving key security issues inherent in any internet-based voting system. The recently released memo cited similar concerns, such as “...possible vulnerabilities from cryptographic flaws and software bugs.”

Many startups including Votem, Voatz, Follow My Vote, Boulé, Democracy Earth and Agora have already begun developing and promoting blockchain-based voting systems. Many of them believe blockchain could be as big a deal in voting as advocates expect it to be in shipping, money transfers, and property records.

But technology and security experts alike seem to think otherwise. "We range from being skeptical to very skeptical about it," said Maurice Turner, senior technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

But one promising solution could come from somewhere unexpected - the cryptosphere. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have seen their fair share of hacking attempts, with millions already exploited by hacking entities that lurk on the dark web.

HUB Security, a Tel-Aviv based cybersecurity firm, is now looking to share their cryptographic technology with the Senate, and the rest of the world. Their promise: a military-grade, highly-secure voting environment for both citizens and parliamentary members alike. 

Designed for FIPS 140-2 level 4 certification, HUB’s mini HSM device would allow voters to participate in the electoral process while remaining 100% isolated from local network connections. The HSM’s unique cryptographic architecture eliminates any cyber and privacy threats from the internet, home computer or mobile device, making blockchain voting for the first time a viable option.

Whether the future of voting remains paper-based or takes on a new evolution of cryptography, elections must go on and both citizens and congressional leaders must continue to explore solutions for maintaining the engine of democracy during COVID-19 - our voting systems.