Online voting still too risky, cybersecurity expert says

By  | July 7, 2017 | 12 Comments | Filed under: uncategorized



From the kitchener Record…


NewsJul 06, 2017 05:16by Terry PenderWaterloo Region Record

CAMBRIDGE — Online voting is not a secure way for electors to choose a new government, says the chief technology officer of a Cambridge-based cybersecurity firm eSentire.

“As a technologist and someone who is very concerned about the integrity of our elections, I would not be a fan or supportive of any electronic voting system,” said Mark McArdle.

Online voting is expected to be used by 150 to 200 Ontario municipalities in the next round of municipal elections in October 2018.

One of those cities will be Cambridge, which allowed online voting and telephone voting for a two-week advance voting period in 2014. In the next election in 2018, Cambridge will expand early voting to three weeks, and allow internet and telephone voting on election day.

McArdle works out of eSentire’s headquarters on Pinebush Road. The company, which employs more than 250 people in Cambridge and 50 in offices in New York City and Ireland, protects more than 600 clients around the world from hackers and malware.

Paper ballots are better than virtual ones, said McArdle.

“I think the paper system, while anachronistic — it has flaws of its own — at the end of the day you have a paper ballot, you can count them again, you can count them a third time,” he said.

“And with electronic systems, and the attack surfaces that electronic systems bring into play, I don’t think we are sophisticated enough as a society to manage the responsibilities that come along with that effectively.”

Look no further than the United States to see the chaotic fallout that ensued following accusations and reports that Russian hackers meddled in last fall’s presidential election.

Russian hackers used phishing emails to trick leaders of the Democratic Party into opening attachments that contained spyware. The Russians then passed along a trove of 20,000 secret emails from the Democratic National Committee, through third parties, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

There are reports that Russian hackers created false stories about Hillary Clinton that were widely distributed on social media. For months, Washington has been preoccupied with congressional hearings, investigations and accusations about Russian hackers and the presidential election.

“We see what’s happened in the U.S., how big a distraction this has been,” said McArdle.

“The thing that is most frustrating out of all the discussions I am seeing about the Russian hacks and all the various investigations, they haven’t even gotten close to talking about how this happened, and what can be done about preventing it going forward,” he said.

All of this should be a cautionary tale for online voting. In Canada, online elections are held at the municipal level only in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

In Ontario, 12 municipalities had online voting in 2003. That increased to 20 in 2006. It more than doubled to 44 in 2010, and expanded to 97 during the last municipal elections in 2014.

Nicole Goodman, director of research at the Centre for e-Democracy at the University of Toronto, studied internet voting at 47 municipalities in the 2014 elections. She surveyed voters and election officials.

“There are concerns around security, but I have to say they are a minority,” said Goodman. “For the most part it seems they accept any security concerns as being part and parcel of taking part in online activities.”

Goodman’s husband is a computer programmer and, like many in that sector, he is opposed to online voting because the internet is not secure, she said.

She said standards need to be developed around security for online voting. She hopes to work with computer scientists and the City of Toronto to research how internet voting can be made more secure.

“Definitely, computer scientists will explain to you the risks associated with it, and that’s certainly why we haven’t seen internet voting at higher levels of government,” said Goodman.

“Because as you go up, people associated a greater degree of importance with higher level elections, and hackers would have a greater incentive to try and compromise one of those elections,” she said.

Secret ballots in elections are the heart of democracy, and McArdle is waiting for the day when the practice of democracy can be entrusted to the internet.

“I am a geek at heart, and I want to embrace technology in all places it can improve quality of life, but there are some vital systems that need to be hardened to a point that we haven’t demonstrated as a society enough sophistication to do that well,” he said. , Twitter: @PenderRecord



12 Responses to Online voting still too risky, cybersecurity expert says

    Maggie July 7, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Yes read this in the Record. He is the expert but as common people we already knew this information, but apparently our Mayor and Council can’t read!! There have been so many articles on this proven fact. But of course, we are now getting all this information and realize, especially, why the Mayor wouldn’t want legitimate voting via paper ballot. Just might be an HONEST ELECTION and he’d lose. Wow – wouldn’t that be nice to finally have an honest election after all these years.
    Sure wish everyone read this article – very interesting.
    Good honest residents tried to inform the Mayor/Council – but they had their ear plugs in that night & voted for Online. As I keep saying “Dumb, Dumb & Dumber”$

    Tom Vann July 8, 2017 at 7:33 am

    After all, he is only an expert. What does he know? The elections have been tainted for years. Here in Cambridge we saw what the clerk on direction did to the process. There was no huge increase last election from online. I would bet the farm someone will control the #’s in favor of selective people that will follow the duck downstream. Let the fix begin.

  3. rk July 8, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I find it very interesting that NOW the Record puts an article in the newspaper about how unreliable on-line voting is.

    I also find it very interesting that when I went before Council earlier this year to ask them to reconsider online and telephone voting because it could be hacked and was secure that when the time came to vote whether or not to allow online and telephone voting one councillor stated to the news media CTV news that he voted for online and telephone ballots because ‘STAFF RECOMMENDED IT’ THAT sure tells me just where his mind is regarding the ELECTORATE..

    He simply doesn’t care…SOUNDS to me like WHATEVER STAFF RECOMMENDS he votes that way

    so really in 2018 allowing online and telephone ballots…who knows how this election can turn out…after all WHO REALLY has control of HOW YOUR VOTE IS CAST?????? Something for everyone to think about…after all…YOUR vote may end up going to the CANDIDATE YOU DON’T want to be your VOICE on Council

  4. Caribou July 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    hmmm was at that council meeting myself..Found it really interesting that ONE Councillor said’I don’t think PUTIN would want to HACK our Elections..Now REALLY People…GIVE ME A BREAK…This is the kind of CHILDISH Non Thinking Councillor that Puts Mouth in Gear before Brain is Engaged???

    Dyker Dan July 8, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Fixed, fixed, fixed!

  6. Citizen Cane July 8, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Yes Dyker…and how do residents of Cambridge ensure that the election is not fixed that is the question

    Maggie July 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Yes they have been fixed – just ask the two citizens that took this to Court, spent their own money, but would not be listened to. Tried to do on their own – no help.
    Yes we know the past 2 elections have been fixed with the new modern dangerous way of voting. And there are all kinds of stories of missing/delayed ballots, or just left in someones basement – very interesting. Some rumours are true.
    Back to basics people – call your Councillors – call the Mayor – but he will always ignore you if you don’t agree with him. Most of the Councillors are afraid of him – not sure why – but thought they were voted in by the people to do a decent job. Apparently not. No brain – no gain. Again – dumb, dumb & dumber$$$$$

    Tom Vann July 9, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    The Badger is correct. She has the clerk on the ropes in the ring of honesty. One smart cookie. I love her ideas! I spoke online to people in London and Woodstock about how our town is being run and what the mayor, manager and clerk is doing. Keep passing the word around this Province to help out. Quack, quack.

    Tom Vann July 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Hot news today out of the coffee shops that Mann visits. He’s fed up with council downtown and all the blowback fake news, manipulation and other goodies. He is looking into running for the Region. Who do you vote for? Mann, Karl, or Jowlett. Personally, I don’t trust his flip flop blame others to do the work ideas. If he votes yes to the college…Hermie the Gerbil will whoop his ass in an election. Damn near wet myself with the Pam cartoon today. They forgot a wine bottle in the shot.

    • Concerned August 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Oh Mann Fed up with council downtown…Maybe we are fed up with how he doesn’t listen to the TAXPAYER!! He needs to be TURFED IN 2018…he was useless anyway..Sitting in the HORSESHOE looking like a HORSES ASS…

    Gladys Smith July 27, 2017 at 6:40 am

    At Election time we all will be surprised at who puts their name in to be Elected as a Regional Rep you sure can hide up there at the Region, I mean what do we ever hear about what Karl or Jowlett do up there, they should show up at Council meeting and see what is going on in the Community.

  11. Concerned August 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Good Idea Gladys..Hey maybe I should run for Regional Chair…I love sitting on my ASS and doing NOTHING and letting the TAXPAYER foot the bill…after all isn’t that what these IDIOTS do there???

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