Focus Theme E-Voting


Focus Theme E-Voting

“With all its distinct and partly contradictory security requirements and goals, electronic voting is the supreme discipline among secure communication protocols.” This is what University of Zurich associate Professor Rolf Oppliger told me when we discussed E-Voting last year. He went on to explain that online banking needs strong authentication, message integrity, confidentiality and non-reputability. But with E-Voting, this needs to be combined with anonymity, which makes it feel like forcing two magnets together from the wrong side.

At the same time, the voting process is at the very heart of a democracy. Undermine the trust in the results of the voting process and you undermine the legitimacy of the government. Undermine the legitimacy of the government and you start to see cracks all over the state as it is now standing on a shaky ground.

So when it became more and more clear that the Russian government had tried to manipulate the US presidental election, France and the Netherlands dropped all plans for E-Voting for their 2017 elections.

It would seem a prudent decision and one that conservative Switzerland would take as well. However, the opposite is the case. Switzerland is continuing towards the nationwide adoption of E-Voting and the speed is actually accelerating: In April, the federal government endorsed cantons to adopt E-Voting for the next federal election in 2019 and in June, the parliament suggested a detailed analysis if purely electronic voting was feasible.

One would think that a national discussion on E-Voting was due, but we do not see this happen so far. That is why Swiss Cyber Storm announces E-Voting to be a focus topic at our upcoming conference on 18th October 2017. If Swiss politicians really want the citizens to vote at home in front of their computer, we want to make sure Cyber Security Experts are part of the discussion. I do not think it is exaggerating to say, that 80% of the IT security experts are very sceptical about the feasibility of a secure E-Voting process. However, it is even less exaggerating to conclude that 90% of said experts have very little knowledge of the existing systems, the protocols and the extensive experience of the Swiss federal cancellery spanning over 10 years and more than 100 individual public votes with some of the voters using an electronic channel.

Swiss Cyber Storm aims to fill this gap: We will give you first hand knowledge of the history of E-Voting in Switzerland, the specific challenges of electronic voting in general and the solutions of the two competitors on the Swiss market

So the idea is not to answer the question if E-Voting is good or bad. It is not ours to make this decision, but it is our role to give advice and if E-Voting really finds wide adoption, I want it to be as secure as it possibly can be. So Swiss Cyber Storm will help participants to develop a well-funded opinion on the question of E-Voting and we hope we can spark a discussion.

It’s time to secure your ticket for our conference on 18th October 2017. The early-bird sales have been doing far better than in previous years. Combine this with this hot theme focus at the conference and you can see why we are confident we will sell out the conference a lot earlier than what we generally do.

Christian Folini, Program Chair, Swiss Cyberstorm Conference @ChrFolini