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Indian Electronic Voting Researcher Arrested (freedom-to-tinker.com)
117 points by randomwalker 2614 days ago | hide | past | web | 32 comments | favorite

Rop Gongrijp is the guy behind wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl and was instrumental in getting the Dutch government to abandon electronic voting and use the famous red pencil again.

He's also one of the co-founders of xs4all.nl, one of the first ISP in the netherlands.

Great quote right there from the Chief Election Commisioner: "are practically totally tamper proof.", so, effectively he's actually admitting they're broken.

You can't be 'practically' tamper proof, you're tamper proof or you're not, just like you can't be a little bit pregnant or slightly dead.

If they set up a defense fund I'll definitely contribute.

This is a just cause, India is the largest democracy on earth, they're an example for the whole region.

You can't be 'practically' tamper proof, you're tamper proof or you're not, just like you can't be a little bit pregnant or slightly dead.

I don’t think that’s correct. I have a hard time imagining any system that is ever really tamper proof. Much is possible with enough resources, even tampering with the paper ballot. Tamperability doesn’t seem like a binary property to me.

When changing one vote costs you a few thousand Euro and the likelihood of the tampering being detected is still substantial (that would be my ballpark estimate for the paper ballot) the system is practically tamper proof and that’s good enough.

Sometimes we may even increase tamperability just to get the result we want. Absentee ballots are much easier to tamper with than paper ballots but we have them to allow as many people to vote as possible. That goal trumps the easier tamperability.

The problem is not that tampering with voting machines is at all and somehow possible – that’s just the same with paper ballots – the problem is that tampering with voting machines has the potential to scale much better than tampering with the paper ballot. The cost per vote is substantially lower as is the probability for detection.

Tamper proof means that you can detect that something was messed with, not that you can't mess with it.

And that is definitely something that can be done I think.

Well, then paper ballots are not tamper proof.

Nothing is tamper proof by itself.

Being tamper proof is a thing that you address in a systemic way, with information, analysis, materials and procedures.

So a paper ballot is not tamper proof but a box that is viewed by many that is opened in the presence of many and counted, and re-counted by many can yield a result that all will likely agree on to a degree that the democratic process can be executed.

You could try to exchange the box, but there would be many witnesses, you could try to put extra ballots in it, but it would be detected and so on. The witnesses make all the difference, they turn a tamper prone piece of paper in to a tamper proof election device.

A computer in stead of that box with paper ballots is open to any number of ways of tampering that would go undetected, both locally and remotely as well as from the outside before the election has even been started.

I don’t disagree with you in general, I just think that the whole process of the paper ballot is not tamper proof. It is much more tamper proof than voting machines, sure, but not wholly immune.

I think the statement ‘The paper ballot process is practically tamper proof’ is essentially correct and as such don’t think that the statement of the Chief Election Commissioner with regard to voting machines in itself is incriminating. All I want to say is that saying something is ‘practically tamper proof’ is a meaningful statement.

It's been proven trivial to mess with electronic voting machines, so that statement is patent nonsense.

The security (I use the term lightly) of electronic voting relies on not having knowledge about the system.

I don’t disagree with you about that, never said I did.

Once again a demonstration that if such voting machines are to be used with any confidence then their hardware and software design needs to be open source for independent inspection. With closed source electronic voting the industrialization of election fraud becomes possible, and where it's possible a few individuals with power or money at stake will seek to exploit the vulnerabilities.

Well, that fixes the problem.

There is a sense of despair that comes from reading news about people who have no discernible motive for what they do except deliberately trying to be as stupid as possible. I have started to disbelieve in Hanlon's Razor. It's not stupidity. It's malice. In this case, very clearly malice, but I'm starting to wonder if it's malice more often than that.

Oh, and most people shrugging and going on with their lives - that's stupidity.


1. The motive here is fairly straightforward -- they are trying to silence the researcher. (Edit. There is of course also the fact that they want to find the identity of the source; I don't know which of these is the primary motivation.)

2. 10 years ago or probably even 5 years ago this would have absolutely worked. The Indian government just hasn't woken up to the fact that news travels fast these days due to the Internet, and they can't control it. Indeed, the Indian media aren't even covering this. That's probably what they were counting on.

3. It is also clear to me that it is not malice. Their point of view is that if these pesky security researchers didn't go around poking flaws, then no one will find them and exploit them. Regrettably, that is a surprisingly common view. For example, many commenters right here on hacker news criticized my research on those grounds (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1193417)

4. Yes, most people are going to go on with their lives. What else would you expect -- there are dozens of these minor atrocities happening around the world every day, there simply isn't enough time to do something about all of them. A good many people in India and elsewhere are doing something about this, and I believe it is making a difference. Police brutality (let alone random arrests) used to be common in India; things have gotten dramatically better in the last decade due to activism.

You often throw out these terms from philosophy/logic; that doesn't make your arguments more logical. Just an observation.

The most unfortunate thing is that the machines won't be replaced before crucial elections. If they are ever replaced at all. It's in the interest of the political parties to let them continue and the executive branch of the government is too myopic to deal with something like this. Their documents think that it's the greatest machine on Earth (I kid you not) and others are begging a piece of their action. The judiciary in the other hand is already bogged down and it will be many years before the higher courts hear this case and several years for the deliberation to come out.

What alarms me is that this is a country where parliamentary votes can be bagged for money (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash-for-votes_scandal ) and politicians try to buy the people through thinly veiled bribes. What happens if you remove the last pillars of belief in the system? The ballot has been sacred ground in India and it has been a symbol that everything can be fixed. What happens if you take that away?

According to a BBC survey, 80% of the population live on 20 rupees (25p) a day in India i.e. with a $500 million investment politicians can buy their votes. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6946800.stm

Interesting to hear of a 'hot debate' on voting-machine security -- in the U.S. the issue gets little attention. Does India have saner media and politics?

very unfortunate to arrest the researcher.

Indian election commission ideally should open source the hardware design and the software, and let there be debate on how to make the system foolproof.

but going back to paper vote should not be a option, we have enough backward thinking regional parties who are opposed to gender equality, education and technology

They should have thought this one through a bit better. A fair number of people will take a refusal to strengthen the system as proof that the system is already being tampered with. That may or may not be the case but the head of the election committee should be happy that outsiders are showing the flaws, not arrest them. After all everybody benefits from a solid system, right?

This is also going to draw a lot of international scrutiny.

Actually, I hope this one draws a lot of international scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the way things work in India, there's way too much bureaucracy with these sort of things and a bunch of old people running the show who are very much resistant to change (not to mention the potential $$$). Unless the matter is really played up by the media (which in itself is another animal to be wary of), this would have gone through without a question. With the public outcry and the coverage of this arrest, there might be Public Litigations coming in which can atleast halt the process and get due diligence.

Shooting the messenger is still wildly popular in plenty of places.

Does India have whistleblower protection written in to law?

(that would not help Hari directly but it could help him in his defense to not reveal his source)

Now I'm not too familiar with the Indian Penal Code and Law in general, but there have been instances of whistleblowers being silenced in the past one way or another if the spotlight or public movement momentum is slow to follow. The chances of this happening are more in certain parts of the country like Bihar and UP etc.

It's unfortunate but the situation is slowly improving as time goes by and connectivity and access of information improves.

Incidentally, the whistleblower protection bill was passed barely a week ago: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article560731.ece

The place to lodge all such complaints is http://cvc.nic.in/lodgecomp.htm

I would'nt be surprised if this law was invoked during the legal defense.

India is a model democracy with transparent election process.

India is litigation prone, and courts take decades to deliver justice.

Everyone who has lost a election in the last 20 years is going to claim election was rigged.

the few bad things we have inherited in, Parliament and legislative assemblies can be not allowed to function by a small group of irritant elected representatives.

hope sanity prevails with civil servants and he get released soon, and we have a open debate at various levels

Now why on earth would that get voted down?

Wonder how interested he really is considering his predecessor himself accused the current CEC of favouring the ruling party.

unfortunately none of the indian media are covering this news.

They'd probably rather not get arrested.

Why does every country create their own electronic voting solution (or worse: just use paper)?

In Brazil it is the law that everyone must vote. It is also the case that the vote must be anonymous because it could be dangerous for voters if it could be found out how they voted. Because of this Brazil has an electronic system that both verifies that everyone has voted and ensures that a vote could never be tied to the person who cast it. As far as I know it's the best voting system in the world. Why don't other countries just buy this one instead of maintaining their own?

Security through obfuscation... not a very good idea.

Sadly, the general population is not familiar with the concept and its inherent sanity.

Imagine the first time you read the phrase, coming from a un-informed background.

Thats pretty much the way, the everyman is going to back the government on this arrest -> for being a traitor to the government.

Another article that presents a perspective from the Election Commission of India http://www.hindu.com/2010/08/11/stories/2010081156342000.htm

what is so wrong with paper-ballot voting? even most of the developed countries are relying on paper.

Honest elections DO require a paper trail, even with EV-machines

I found : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_Verified_Paper_Audit_Trai...

results now are declared within hours of counting starts

for a country of our size with 120 crore people, it already takes multiple days of voting in phases, due to security and administrative difficulties

if we go back to paper ballots, counting will take many days, error prone, we would have large number of invalid votes

booth capture used to be norm in UP bihar in 1980's early 1990's

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