Can Blockchain Technology Secure Digital Voting Systems?

December 8, 2016

Over the past few weeks, teams from 19 universities in the US and UK competed in Kaspersky Lab’s Cybersecurity Case Study Competition, hosted by The Economist’s Which MBA? site. The teams were challenged with a complex task:

Can technology play a greater positive role in democracy and the way people make important decisions about the future of their countries? With digital voting, a new wave of challenges rolls in: from guaranteeing the anonymity of voters to the prevention of fraud, all the while ensuring the security of the voting system itself. One small vulnerability or oversight could very well change the course of a nation’s history.

Can Blockchain Technology Secure Digital Voting Systems?

Earlier today, Kaspersky Lab announced the winners of the competition. The grand prize winner was New York University, second place was awarded to University of Maryland, College Park and Newcastle University received third place.

“The competition was very interesting and I was very impressed with the submissions,” said Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab. “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.”

Kaspersky Lab experts served as the judging panel, selecting the top three proposals out of the 19 submissions. Additional information for each award-winning submission is below:

  • New York University: In first place, and recipient of 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 allows voters to tell if their individual vote was counted.
  • University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center: Second place and $5,000 was awarded to the University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center, which proposed a solution rooted in global public keys that encrypt ballots and provide voter receipts using randomly generated numbers. The university’s proposal also features cryptographic tree data structures that allow citizens to check if their vote was counted.
  • Newcastle University: Winner of $3,000 and third place was Newcastle University, which proposed a solution rooted in three protocols: the Open Vote Network, DRE-i and DRE-ip.

You can see all of the submissions at The Economist’s Which MBA? site.