MIT cybersecurity experts do not trust blockchain-based voting systems

While certain parties in the United States continue to challenge the integrity of the election process, a group of researchers is advocating against using Internet-based and blockchain-based voting systems in the future.

According to a Nov. 16 report from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, relying on blockchain voting technology is not a reliable means of promoting greater turnout and may increase the risk of hackers tampering with elections.

The cybersecurity team of Sunoo Park, Michael Specter, Neha Narula and Ronald L. Rivest concluded that blockchain was “unsuitable for political elections for the foreseeable future” when compared with software-independent methods including voting in person and mail-in ballots. Some of the concerns they raised were the potential lack of ballot secrecy — traceable on the blockchain — and the lack of auditing in the event of a contested race.

“While current election systems are far from perfect, blockchain would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures,” said Rivest, an MIT professor and the senior author of the report. “Any turnout increase would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast.”

The researcher continued:

“I haven’t yet seen a blockchain system that I would trust with a county-fair jellybean count, much less a presidential election.”

The team argues one of the main differences when using blockchain technology for a democratic process like voting versus financial transactions is that when hacks or fraud occurs, financial institutions sometimes have methods to compensate victims for their losses. Credit card companies can reimburse funds, and even some crypto exchanges have been able to freeze tokens associated with a hack.

“For elections there can be no insurance or recourse against a failure of democracy,” the report states….

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