USPS Secretly Tested Blockchain Voting System, It Didn’t Work


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If you have ever found it strange that modern society has figured out how to use the Internet to facilitate the sale of millions in GIF dollars but still can’t seem to implement secure online voting, then you are not alone. The United States Postal Service, which is normally not known for its forward-looking approach to technology, has reportedly attempted to implement a blockchain-based mobile voting system ahead of the 2020 election according to The Washington Post.

While specific details on the now defunct project are scarce, the USPS provided a basic view of what a blockchain-based voting system might look like in August 2020. patent. If implemented, voting would have taken place anonymously through a mobile app, with each vote recorded in multiple digital locations at the same time.

In a statement to Gizmodo, a USPS spokesperson said the system on which the patent was based was “exploratory” in nature and was scrapped in 2019. “The potential of Blockchain technology to enhance the security of digital transactions is a concept that we have explored during our journey to better meet the current and future needs of our customers, and to bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds, ”said the spokesperson. “But we don’t intend to advance this system.”

USPS the idea was said to have diverged from other US federal agencies that were also working on electoral security measures in the aftermath of the fallout from the 2016 election, although it focused primarily on proven paper ballots. The system didn’t go far after researchers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Spring discovered numerous potential vulnerabilities. when they used it in a mock election.

Without mince words, one of these researchers told the Post that he believed the blockchain system was actually causing more problems than it solved.

For years, electoral security experts have warned against the push to implement Internet voting systems, lest they become a vector for malicious attacks or diminish trust and transparency around the Internet. electoral system. The latter concern is especially true when millions of American voters say they do not believe the results of the 2020 presidential election.

According to a morning consultation in January surveyless than 35% of GOP voters said they trusted the U.S. election. Part of this mistrust was likely amplified by the increase in mail-order votes brought about by the pandemic. A stronger pivot towards online voting risks further increasing mistrust. Still other groups, such as NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice have expressed concerns this funds for online voting measures would reduce those needed to strengthen the field-tested voting systems.

“The Brennan Center recommended that Congress allocate $ 4 billion to help state and local governments implement the upgrades needed just to protect voters from the coronavirus and cyber attacks this year,” Lawrence Norden said , director of the Brennan Center electoral reform program. “This is where all available resources need to go. “

This is not entirely unexplored territory in practice. Alaska, Washington DCand the Department of Defense have all tested limited pilot versions of remote voting systems in the past, but abandoned those after experts cited potential security vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, last year, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, and several other federal agencies released a Evaluation citing the high risk associated with online or mobile voting technologies.

“Securing the return of ballots via the Internet while ensuring the integrity of ballots and preserving voter confidentiality is difficult, if not impossible, at present,” the agencies determined. “If election officials choose or are mandated by state law to use this high-risk process, its use should be limited to voters who have no other way to return their ballot and have it count. “

All of these concerns have not, however, prevented some states from trying their hand at online voting. During the pandemic, mobile voting systems have been used in limited cases in West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey, however, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered multiple vulnerabilities in the systems and claims they represented “a serious risk to electoral security”.

About Shirley L. Kreger

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