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BlueWolf's Howl

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January 12, 2004

E-voting

I ran across this interesting article:
E-voting vendor hit by hacker

Naturally, it was politically motivated... The name of the alleged hacker has appeared frequently on Web sites opposed to digital voting.

Now, you all know I love the Internet. And I think it's a wonderful place. But, it's not a place you want to trust your vote. Especially not in its current state. Sure, you can trust your commerce to the Internet. There are traps and pitfalls, but any money or tangible items lost can be recovered. If you get swindled, you can always make more money. But, as we've seen in the last election... you only get one shot to get it right when you vote.

And to poke at your paranoia... it will never be secure for such a process. And in some ways that's not entirely a bad thing. If it's completely secure for voting, it would be completely secure for criminals too.

The reason it's not secure is that governments will always want to be able to get at "the goods"... If they catch a pedophile who has encrypted his files, they want to be able to decrypt them and prosecute the sick bastard. And I'm sure we all agree that this is a good thing. So, in this instance, it benefits us for the government to restrict encryption. If the only encryption allowed to be sold commercially is able to be cracked by non-commercial means (hardware and software), then we know that criminals will not be able to escape prosecution. If commercial encryption is completely secure (unable to be cracked), then the criminals have the upper hand.

So...crackable encryption is a good thing - for most purposes. The cost and effort involved in cracking the encryption means that it won't be used to snoop on the average citizen. It's a resource that would be reserved for cases that warrant such no-holds-barred methods.

But voting is an entirely different animal. Look at what you're doing and look at who has access to the non-commercial decryption process. In this country, the American vote selects the President of the United States. That's a very big prize. It's worth a lot of time, money and effort. And who has the decryption ability? The government of the United States. Hmmmm... just too much potential for a conflict of interest.

The only hope for a secure voting process would be quantum cryptography. As soon as I heard those two words put together, I knew it would be interesting. If you know anything about quantum mechanics, you know that this is the best match since chocolate met peanut butter. If you've ever petted Schrodinger's cat, you know that the act of looking at an intercepted message irretrievably changes the message and is provably detectable. This is the new crypto frontier. It's not available yet on your store shelves, but it is entirely possible and is in the process of being developed.

This will make voting secure. But, it will also give criminals the advantage of secret activity. That's a high price to pay for convenience... but you can't un-ring a bell.

Posted by BlueWolf on January 12, 2004 08:24 PM