Scientist claims he has made the ultimate unhackable voting machine

Experts do not want to hack it.
Ameya Paleja
Transparent voting machine
Transparent voting machine

Juan Gilbert / Youtube 

Juan Gilbert, a professor of computer science at the University of Florida, has claimed that he has built the ultimate unhackable voting machine that can put concerns to rest over machine-related voting, Undark reported last month.

Electronic voting systems have the U.S. divided, with advocates calling them reliable aides to the voting process, helping people with disabilities to vote, and reducing invalid ballots. On the other hand, critics have called for their boycott since they can be hacked and can tilt the vote in favor of a person or party.

Companies engaged in building voting machines, an industry with annual revenues of $300 million, do not help matters as they chose to remain secretive about how their machines work and refuse to talk to researchers or the press, the Undark report said. Under these circumstances, Gilbert's work is commendable since he has built a system that works using open-source software.

How does the voting system work?

Gilbert's transparent voting machine has been in the works for nearly two decades. It consists of a transparent box that also serves as a touchscreen interface for voters.

Inside the transparent box is a printer that is connected to the device's software Prime III and prints the voter's selection on a paper that is immediately fed into a scanner to be tallied. The transparent case ensures that if a USB device is connected with the intention to hack, the system will be immediately detected by voters.

To ensure that the software of any of the components is not corrupted by an unknown piece of code, it is stored on a Blu-Ray disc in a read-only format, and the voting machine reboots every single time a vote is cast.

The giant transparent touchscreen also ensures that voters are staring right at the printer immediately after their vote is cast and notice the tampering right away.

A system nobody wants to hack

Critics of ballot-marking devices (BMDs) and electronic voting systems have exposed their shortcomings publicly. One such platform has been the annual hacking event DEF Con in Las Vegas.

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Earlier in the summer, Gilbert wrote to have a dozen experts give them unfettered access to his machine so that it could be tested by the best minds. Since Prime III uses open-source software, Gilbert's transparent voting machine should be easier to hack into. Manufacturers of electronic voting machines do not share their source code, citing security issues, but Gilbert has already bared it all when it comes to the code.

Yet, not one expert came forward to test the system this year, the Undark report said. The device is likely to feature again at next year's DEF CON event. However, Gilbert's voting machine might never see an election day.

Next up, Gilbert's system needs to be certified, for which he may have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. The prototype device was made using a French company, but for wide adoption, Gilbert needs to find interested buyers for the device. For jurisdictions, these are just once-a-decade events.

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