Global Standards

Investigating Blockchain Technology Uses in Secure Digital Voting Systems

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Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab recently announced the winning collegiate teams in its Cybersecurity Case Study Competition, hosted by The Economist’s Which MBA? site. The grand prize winner was New York University, with second place awarded to the University of Maryland, College Park and Newcastle University receiving third place.
Over the past few weeks, 19 teams from universities in the U.S. and UK were challenged to create a blockchain technology solution for securing digital voting systems. Participants provided written and video submissions detailing their proposals on blockchain-compliant systems that addressed specific security challenges, including voter privacy, undecided voters, voter fraud and more.

Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky: “The competition was very interesting and I was very impressed with the submissions. There was a lot of good work there! The challenges of cybersecurity mean the next generation of experts face a changing frontier – there will be plenty of things to work on and securing digital voting systems for national elections is just one example. If cybercriminals exploit one small vulnerability, it could potentially change the course of a nation’s history, and these young scholars are bringing us one step closer to making secure digital voting a reality.”

U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer congratulated the Maryland-based finalists, saying: “I’m proud that the University of Maryland, College Park, has been recognised as one of the leading centres for cybersecurity research in the country. In Congress, I’ve worked closely with President Loh, state leaders and federal education and national security agencies to highlight the benefits of investing in cybersecurity research in Maryland, which boasts a top-notch education system and proximity to critical defense, intelligence, and homeland security infrastructure. As our nation faces new and challenging cyber-threats to our security and to our businesses’ intellectual property, we must continue to invest resources in developing cutting-edge cyber defenses such as those being designed and tested at the University of Maryland, College Park, in Maryland’s Fifth District.”

Newcastle University’s third place secured $3,000 with proposed solution rooted in three protocols: the Open Vote Network, DRE-i and DRE-ip. $5,000 was awarded to the University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Centre, which came second with its proposed solution rooted in global public keys that encrypt ballots and provide voter receipts using randomly generated numbers. The university’s proposal also featured cryptographic tree data structures that would allow citizens to check if their vote was counted.

Coming in first place, and receiving the $10,000 grand prize, was New York University. The university’s submission proposed the usage of a ‘permissioned blockchain’ configuration, in which a central authority admits voting machines to the network prior to the start of the election, followed by voting machines acting autonomously to build a public, distributed ledger of votes. In addition to addressing threats to the integrity of the system, NYU’s plan also allowed voters to tell if their individual vote was counted.

Kevin Kirby, Anthony Masi, and Fernando Maymi, who presented the winning solution ‘Votebook’, are all NYU ASPIRE scholars, taking part in a program that aims to produce cybersecurity specialists who understand information-security issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. The program is based at the NYU Center for Cybersecurity and accepts students from across the university.

Maymi remarked: “Concerns about ballot stuffing, fraud, and cyber attacks have rattled voter confidence. It’s time that the voting system became more transparent, and we have shown that we should and can harness the power of blockchain technology to serve democracy.”

NYU Tandon Professor of Electrical and Computer Science, Ramesh Karri, who co-founded the Center for Cybersecurity, said: “We are exceedingly proud that our ASPIRE scholars triumphed in this important challenge. Their win is proof that interdisciplinary teams can create exceptionally secure information systems based on a deep understanding of social, behavioral, and public policy implications. With digital data becoming more and more essential in every facet of our lives – including the way in which we elect our leaders – their expertise is invaluable.”

Matthew Warner
Based near Windsor, England, Matthew Warner is an enthusiast for innovative, cutting edge technologies. He is a B.Eng. graduate in engineering with honors from the University of Warwick and also holds an PGCE in education degree. Matthew is a member of Mensa.