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Browser automation. India to world+dog: Go ahead, please hack our elections … if you can

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Following demands for an investigation into the security of India’s electronic voting machines, the country’s election watchdog has invited all comers to hack its e-ballot boxes.

A kerfuffle over the machines kicked off after a round of recent elections: some in the Indian parliament claimed tallies were maliciously altered by miscreants meddling with the devices. A big bunch of politicians called for the electronic voting machines to be junked and replaced with paper ballots in light of these suspicions.

“We have substantial evidence” of tampering, said Congress Party spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad, Times of India reports.

“We gave substantial proof to the Electoral Commission. It did not say that our objections were wrong. It has said that it will probe it. We have asked (the commission) to see how to rectify the flaws in electronic voting machines (so) that the people should have faith that their vote goes to those they vote for.”

While the Indian government rejected these calls for a return to paper ballots, the commission said it will organize a hackathon to probe the boxes. The ten-day competition will be held in May and everyone is invited to subvert the voting machines and the backend systems that support them.

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The hacking contest will be complicated. The world’s largest democracy uses a variety of different types of electronic voting machines, as is the case in the US, and so a selection of different types of system will be entered into the hackathon.

The commission held a similar hacking competition in 2009 after concerns of election fraud were raised. More than 100 machines were tested ad none of them proved susceptible to hacking.

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In the meantime, the fate of cyber-election boxes on the subcontinent remains in the balance. Senior Congress Party politician Veerappa Moily said in parliament that he would oppose any move to reintroduce paper ballots in the country.

“It is not a progressive step and we have to move forward on technology. There is no question of going back to manual methods,” he said, but added: “I will go by the party’s views on the issue.”

He may have to. Some other senior Congress Party officials immediately tried to roll back on his statements, saying paper ballots are not ruled out. ®

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