The screwed up value chain of cyber security

In “Campaign” Zach Galifianakis makes an amazing comeback on election day with an original approach to politics: he tells the truth.  Despite being 20 points ahead in the polls however he mysteriously loses to his crooked and corrupt opponent.   Nobody wonders why this happens though the movie audience gets treated to a close up of the electronic voting system’s supplier.   It is the same as the lobby sponsoring the winner.

Electronic voting systems seem to be mainly for …backwards countries.  Wherever access to paper or other basic election materials is scant, they are probably better off with a simple electronic voting machine.  If voters can’t read it possibly makes it easier for them to identify with big bright pictures of candidates.  Does that sound condescending?

Well most advanced countries have completely scrapped electronic voting.  Even the ones that invested in it!  And this isn’t just about the U.S. which still remembers well the Gore-Bush tragedy.  (In terms of making the political system credible.)  Ireland actually bought machines but then got rid of them.  Belgium is probably the only advanced country in the world still using electronic voting but that is probably because elo touchsystems was based in Belgium and there are few enough people to double check the result easily!  Everywhere else they seem content on using them retrospectively for things like OCR enabled vote counting or checking.  But at the same time, internet voting soars ahead!

My question however is not “why can’t politician get e-voting right?”  There are numerous technological challenges and all sorts of best practices we are seeing around the world.  Maybe it will happen one day.  No, the real question is “how come we trust electronic transactions for trillion of dollars daily?”

It’s not just about high speed trading or automated monsters of software that take advantage of the crazy complicated world of the stock markets, futures and derivatives.   Even simple things.   Meanwhile in the US today they are more concerned with possible power outages affecting paperless voting systems than viruses or cheating.  Somebody trusts a machine to transfer a million dollars to another bank account but doesn’t trust a similar machine to count responses in a multiple choice question!  And for voting they introduce safeguards like fingerprints (Venezuela), time delays (India) and all sorts of other hi tech wizardry (Estonia).

But still I can log into my computer and transfer all my life’s savings to a another account over the internet?


PS  “Campaign” has an all star cast but is a rather mediocre film.  I wonder if Galifianakis passed a bill about e-voting after becoming congressman…

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