Researchers see risks in online vote system for 3 US states

WASHINGTON • An online voting system approved in three US states is vulnerable to manipulation by hackers and may not protect ballot secrecy, according to an analysis by security researchers.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Michigan said in a research paper released on Sunday that Democracy Live’s OmniBallot platform represents “a severe risk to election security and could allow attackers to alter election results without detection”.

The report comes with election officials scrambling following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic to enable remote voting in the November election to limit risks from crowded polling stations.

According to the researchers, OmniBallot has been approved as an option voting system in Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey.

The report is the latest from security researchers warning of risks from online voting, stemming from the difficulty of ensuring voter authentication while keeping ballots secret and guarding against fraud and intimidation.

It comes amid a heated debate on expanding mail-in ballots, the most commonly used absentee voting system, which has been denounced by US President Donald Trump.

According to the MIT and Michigan researchers, “Omni- Ballot uses a simplistic approach to Internet voting that is vulnerable to vote manipulation by malware on the voter’s device and by insiders or other attackers.”

Additionally, they concluded that Democracy Live “appears to have no privacy policy”, and “receives sensitive personally identifiable information — including the voter’s identity, ballot selections, and browser fingerprint — that could be used to target political ads or disinformation campaigns.” — AFP