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Experts say yes to e-voting, but urge Government to prioritise security

Image credit: Claudiodivizia - Dreamstime

With today’s General Election vote in full swing, technology experts at the IET reveal that they support a move towards e-voting in future elections.

E-voting offers a number of advantages - e.g. convenience and increased turnout - over traditional paper ballots. However, the IET's experts urge the Government to address crucial privacy concerns before introducing the technology.

The experts have envisioned plans for e-voting as part of a detailed proposal for voter modernisation, including suggestions about how best to ensure an e-voting system is fundamentally secure. They also said online voting could potentially lead to clearer and fairer engagement with the UK electorate.

“Online voting can bring new opportunities for accessibility and convenience in election participation, but it is critical that the electorate can trust online voting systems to protect the secrecy of the votes and to ensure the integrity of the results,” said Professor Steve Schneider, chair of the IET Working Group on Electronic Voting.

According to the technologists, cyber threats are rapidly increasing in terms of both frequency and severity. Therefore, highly robust cyber-security processes will have to be implemented for any internet voting system to be considered feasible.

Schneider, who is also the director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security added: “Cyber security is the main concern for these systems, but emerging technologies are bringing new ways of tackling these challenges and we are developing a more mature understanding of what is required to achieve secure and verifiable online voting.”

Countries such as Australia, Canada and Estonia are already making use of technology in the voting process. In Estonia, each of its citizens possesses an electronic chip-enabled ID card, which allows the user to vote over the internet.

In Australia, the country documented issues with its electronic voting. In New South Wales, eligible voters have the chance to vote over the internet via a remote electronic voting system called iVote.

However, during the New South Wales state election in 2015, there were several reports that over 66,000 electronic votes could have been compromised. One security specialist believes that a third-party website was able to attack the system despite its security implications, indicating a vulnerability in the system in the middle of an ongoing poll.

Meanwhile in Canada, during its 2012 New Democratic Party leadership election - conducted partially online - the online voting server was affected by a denial-of-service attack, delaying the completion and tabulation of results.

The IET is due to release a new report early next year which will investigate the possibilities around e-voting and the need for well-informed and authoritative technical advice on the issues, looking closely at the challenges and risks around such systems.

Polling stations for the 2019 General Election are open until 10pm tonight (12 December). You can find your local polling station online: Where Do I Vote?

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