Kaspersky Lab implements a blockchain in its voting system
Kaspersky Lab wants to use what happened in the US recently. It’s about the primary election scandal in Iowa, specifically the fact that the voting system proved so faulty that after 24 hours the winner of the election was still unknown.
Iowa, we have a problem!
On February 3 in Iowa, a vote was held in order to help select a presidential candidate in the Democratic camp. The IowaRecorder application, which was prepared by Shadow Inc., a company previously cooperating with Hillary Clinton’s headquarters, was to help in the process.
The year 2016 was marked by attacks by Russian hackers on Democratic Party servers. It turned out, however, that Democrats do not need cybercriminals from Moscow to discredit themselves in the eyes of Americans. Their contractors from Shadow Inc. were enough. The application didn’t work properly and the result was that in 24 hours it was not clear who won the primary. The success was self-proclaimed by Pete Buttigieg and then Amy Klobucharist. The media claimed that their pet, Bernie Sanders, won.
Only after 3 days it turned out that the electoral votes were distributed in the following way: 14 got Buttigieg, 12 Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each, 8 Joe Biden and only 1 Klobucharist. The biggest losers were Shadow Inc. and… democracy.
The result was clear: modern people’s power needs better systems for counting and recording votes.
The issue became a topic of public debate. According to security experts, the incident (although it’s probably too weak a word for what happened there) in Iowa highlighted the risk of relying on current digital systems.
“When something as important as elections is at stake, frankly speaking, the abuse consists of allowing proprietary software,” said Joshua Simmons, a board member of the Open Source Initiative, which promotes open source software. “Licensed open source software ensures that security researchers have access to everything and improve the software before using it,” he added.
Kaspersky Lab goes to help democracy
Unexpectedly, Kaspersky Lab, a company from Russia, goes to help democracy. Blockchain could help with the new voting system.
“Open source is an important step in creating transparency, nurturing trust and building more robust systems.”
– said the already quoted Simmons.
But how does the Russian giant want to improve the voting? Through its already existing Polys program, which will be strengthened by a chain of blocks. How would that look like?
Polys users – and thus voters – would be assigned unique QR codes or tokens. The next step is to scan them and vote for a particular candidate. The process itself will still provide the participants of the democracy with full anonymity – just like voting with paper cards. The vote would then be encrypted.
There is an additional option in all of this, which is impossible today. Once you have marked your favorite with a cross and threw the ballot paper into the ballot box, you actually don’t know what happens next. You have no certainty that someone will not manipulate your vote correctly.
In a world where we vote with a blockchain, things would be different. The voters could see if their vote was registered in the blockchain. This method clearly reduces the likelihood of fraudulent manipulation of ballots. It introduces a kind of control of the citizens counting their votes.
As if there are few advantages, it is worth adding that it solves the problem of accessibility to polling stations. This issue was recently discussed in India. Today, a large part of voters still have difficult access to places where they can vote. Thus, they often give up this privilege. Such a system may also encourage younger people to take part in the celebration of democracy.
Roman Aleshkin, the manager of the Polys project, explained to the media the advantages of such a model:
“(…) we understand the problems and inconveniences that [our clients] encounter when organizing paper votes. As we can see, voting on our Polys platform can solve some of these problems by giving more opportunities for remote participation and even increasing the attendance of young people”.
A chance for democracy
Today there is more and more talk of a crisis of democracy. The Edelman 2020 trust barometer, which we once quoted, measures people’s trust in institutions. It recently showed that citizens create their trust in the state based on competence and ethical behaviour. However, the report showed that neither business nor government is seen as competent and ethical. The Iowa affair will certainly not improve this result. Thus, blockchain systems could improve this state of affairs.
The European Union will bet on blockchain?
But Kaspersky Lab is still a Russian company. In the context of the hacking scandal in 2016, it cannot inspire full confidence in the US, especially in the sphere of politics and voting. If Washington were to bet on the dissolution of the company… Well, that would be a bit of a history giggle and a paradox.
So it remains to build a blockchain voting system by each country – or union of countries – separately.
In fact, as early as 2016, the European Parliament’s advisory team published a short, two-page discussion on the use of blockchain voting in general elections. The document rightly noted then (let’s recall, we are talking about 2016!) that the power of the Bitcoin network is a strong safeguard against attempts at manipulation. It added that votes placed in the chain can be verified by anyone.
However, as noted by Philip Boucher, the author of the report at the time, one problem may be to ensure the anonymity of the votes. He was hampered by the fact that the rule of one vote for one voter should be ensured in the voting and that votes for absent persons should not be cast. It is very simple when voting in a polling station, where we have our identity card. The matter gets complicated when voting remotely. Blockchain experts believe that these problems can be solved.