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MIT experts do not trust blockchain-based voting systems

According to a Nov. 16 report from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, relying on blockchain-based voting systems is not reliable for promoting better turnout and it can increase the risk of hackers tampering with elections.

The cybersecurity team of Sunoo Park, Michael Specter, Neha Narula and Ronald L. Rivest deduced that blockchain was “unsuitable for political elections for the foreseeable future” when compared with software independent methods as well as voting in person and mail-in ballots.

A number of concerns they mentioned were the lack of ballot secrecy, traceable on the blockchain, and the lack of auditing in the event of a contested race.

Rivest, an MIT professor and the senior author of the report stated:

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

The researcher added:

“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 basic differences when using blockchain technology for a democratic process like voting against the financial transactions is that when hacks or fraud occurs, financial institutions 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.

The report states:

“For elections there can be no insurance or recourse against a failure of democracy”. “There is no means to make voters whole again after a compromised election.”

According to the MIT team, blockchain-based voting system also invites opportunities for “serious failures”. For instance, the hackers should find a way to attack votes without being caught, then authorities would fundamentally have to hold an entirely new election for reliable results. A blockchain-based voting system with just a single point of attack could potentially provide hackers with the ability to alter or remove millions of

votes, whereas “destroying a mail-in ballot generally requires physical access.” This was reported by cointelegraph.com on Nov.16,2020.

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