Internet voting a decade away, easy to hack, distrusted
Voting on the internet using a laptop or smartphone is at least three presidential elections away and may never come, as online hackers are staying ahead of every security patch programmers throw at them.
“The future isn’t 2023,” said Princeton University professor Andrew Appel. “The future is 2030 or something.”
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Appel, the former chairman of Princeton’s Computer Science Department, has been studying voting machine security for two decades and said the country is not close to secure online voting despite attempts in some states and countries to adopt it.
“It’s going to be hard to get there,” he added, citing market forces, with device makers eager to fill mobile computers with applications and software that sometimes have bugs hackers can manipulate.
He just added an academic study of U.S. and worldwide attempts at internet voting to previous reports showing the systems to be unreliable and easy to hack.
“The science is clear,” said his report shared with Secrets, titled “Is Internet Voting Trustworthy? The Science and the Policy Battles.” “Internet voting is subject to a unique danger to which other methods are not vulnerable: that a single criminal actor without even a local physical presence could hack enough computers to change thousands of votes and alter the results of local or national elections.”
While internet voting is used by some states for overseas or military voters, he predicted that millions of votes could be altered if states turned to internet-only voting, leading to a trust crisis.
Among the best voting systems for now, he said, is one in which voters mark paper ballots that are then fed into an optical reader. That system, used in Virginia and other states, allows for an audit of the paper ballots if there are questions about the vote.
It also helps to keep the vote secret. Unlike with online banking, where customers can review their…