Democracy In The New Reality: Voting With Cybersecurity
As a case study, the presidential elections that are about to take place in the United States this November exemplify very well the global need for voting, both nationally and locally, that is supported by software and hardware, building a vast network that allows every citizen to perform their civic obligation regardless of their geographic location. This is even more important in the wake of the pandemic.
Still, it must also be considered that governments often do not have the necessary resources to install hundreds or thousands of physical voting stations, cared for by trained electoral personnel who have all the resources.
Technological innovation makes it possible to reduce the costs necessary to allow the greatest number of citizens to vote, especially those who may be more affected by the virus or the transfers and need an alternative to physical voting.
Is The Future Then In Electronic Voting?
The apparent social needs suggest that it is, but like any important process carried out over the Internet or on digital networks, it needs to go a long way in cybersecurity to guarantee that it is a tool that is shielded against any possible external attack by malicious agents. Since it is the central process of any democracy, the population’s confidence in this process is crucial, and the margin of error is minimal. What does a government need to ensure elections are safe?
Post-Pandemic Electoral Cybersecurity
Since the 2016 US election, interference by foreign governments seeking to perpetuate their political interests through elections in other countries has become a palpable risk reported by security agencies worldwide. This and incursions by cybercriminals with equally sinister purposes, such as stealing voters’ personal information, have ensured that the importance of cybersecurity has come to the fore ever since.
Multiple public figures in the US have expressed disbelief at non-physical electoral processes, even discrediting voting by mail. However, for all the people without the possibility of moving to one of these stations, remote alternatives are the only way to exercise one of their most important rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated this, but they were already crucial for all those citizens who were not living in their native country, for example, without the possibility of returning to exercise their rights.
More threatened than ever, more important than ever, protecting digital voting must be the number one priority of public officials. Effective solutions like moving the system to a secure cyber cloud that allows universal access without incurring expensive dedicated servers is an excellent first step.
A cybersecure armour solution that comprehensively covers all vulnerable aspects is also a must. Instead of contracting solutions one by one, general services are also smart investments that allow taking care of the process without incurring exorbitant expenses for the budget, almost always provided by taxes collected.
However, electoral teams should never believe that a single software or IT consultant is enough to ensure that the digital aspect of an election is well taken care of. It is necessary to include a varied team of consultants who can advise on the legal requirements that the systems must meet to guarantee transparency and functionality, as well as on cyber security.
In the case of a local election, this group may be made up of a handful of experts, but when thinking about national polls, it is important to think of a network of companies and consultancies that can cooperate with public bodies to ensure that the process is smooth.
This responsibility is not only with the sovereignty and democracy of the country but also with all the voters who, by exercising their obligation in the official systems, put their data in the hands of the government and the consultants. We must, above all, ensure that the population can have confidence that the process is safe and transparent.