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Cardano: Hoskinson contradicts Harvard and MIT study on blockchain voting

  • Research from MIT and Harvard concludes that a blockchain-based voting system would pose more security problems than the existing system.
  • The inventor of Cardano, Charles Hoskinson, refutes the research findings.

IOHK CEO and inventor of Cardano, Charles Hoskinson, has published a video refuting the conclusions of a joint research of Harvard and MIT. Titled “Going from Bad to Worse: From Internet Voting to Blockchain Voting,” the research aims to “disprove” that a digital voting system would be a better alternative to the current system.

Over the last five years, the US electoral system has been severely challenged by its participants. As early as 2016, Donald Trump declared that there were irregularities in the election process. Currently, there is an unprecedented dispute about possible election fraud. According to the reigning US President, there have been numerous cases of fraud, destruction of votes and other irregularities in the decisive swing states.

In that sense, the research from the academic institutions states that a digital voting system based on blockchain technology would be a worse alternative in terms of security and participation. Moreover, it would introduce new problems, as the research states:

(…) given thecurrent state of computer security, any turnout increase derived from with Internet- or blockchain-basedvoting would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they werecast, and not undetectably altered or discarded. This state of affairs will continue as long as standardtactics such as malware, zero days, and denial-of-service attacks continue to be effective.

Cardano’s inventor highlights the complexity of blockchain voting

Hoskinson noted that the research offers a good perspective on the voting system in general, although he rejected the conclusions. According to the research, a proper voting system has to guarantee that five points are met: the anonymity of the vote, transparency, independence of the system, contesting of the process, audit. According to the study, blockchain based voting system do not have these characteristics.

The CEO of IOHK explained that the research does not take into account crucial aspects such as demographics, context, and social dynamics in a system. Therefore, its conclusions are limited. Some security problems highlighted, according to Hoskinson, can occur in a traditional system as well as in a blockchain-based system. Despite this, blockchain technology offers solutions that can be difficult to implement in a traditional system.

Specifically, regarding the possible manipulation and theft of votes, Hoskinson said that with a digital system, voters can sign their ballots with a hash using an identification method (DID) to verify that their vote is “properly published and recorded. The inventor of Cardano, however, admits that the blockchain technology is ineffective in certain aspects.

For example, in the handling of private keys. Hoskinson therefore believes that a good solution is to implement a hybrid system where people can choose the most appropriate method of voting. A voting system based on blockchain technology should, according to the IOHK CEO, have the following features: an identification and identity management mechanism, should allow the reproduction of the vote and prevent forgery:

The reality is that you cannot do digital voting unless you have a bulletin board authentication. It’s not enough to say, “I can press a button and vote. You need a certain symmetry in the system where what you put in the system cannot be falsified (…) The only way to do that effectively is with a digital signature in some capacity.

Finally, Hoskinson believes that it is equally important to have an operating environment that is secure for the voting system. The inventor of Cardano further claims that progress has been made on this issue, but argues that there is “nothing that is 100%” secure. He also points out that building a secure “ubiquitous infrastructure” is very expensive.

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