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The Adventurous Tale of Online Voting in Switzerland (Usenix Enigma 2021 conference)

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The Adventurous Tale of Online Voting in Switzerland (Usenix Enigma 2021 conference)

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The Swiss tale with online voting serves as a typical example of the iterative development of highly critical IT systems and the growing involvement of scientists as a necessary step for a government that is willing to learn from past mistakes.

Switzerland has been experimenting with online voting for over 15 years. Several generations of electronic voting systems have been implemented and almost all of them died along the way because of their profound security problems or when the money ran out.

In 2019, Swiss Post published the source code of its online voting system, the last system that was still in the race. Several highly critical findings were discovered in a matter of weeks and the system was stopped right before the national elections.

In 2020, the government rebooted the process and invited two dozen international researchers into an intense dialogue that lasted several months. The resulting report is the base for the renewed regulation that will pave the way forward in 2021.

The Swiss tale with online voting serves as a typical example of the iterative development of highly critical IT systems and the growing involvement of scientists as a necessary step for a government that is willing to learn from past mistakes.

Switzerland has been experimenting with online voting for over 15 years. Several generations of electronic voting systems have been implemented and almost all of them died along the way because of their profound security problems or when the money ran out.

In 2019, Swiss Post published the source code of its online voting system, the last system that was still in the race. Several highly critical findings were discovered in a matter of weeks and the system was stopped right before the national elections.

In 2020, the government rebooted the process and invited two dozen international researchers into an intense dialogue that lasted several months. The resulting report is the base for the renewed regulation that will pave the way forward in 2021.

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The Adventurous Tale of Online Voting in Switzerland (Usenix Enigma 2021 conference)

  1. 1. The Adventurous Tale of Online Voting in Switzerland Christian Folini / @ChrFolini USENIX Enigma 2021
  2. 2. Voting in Switzerland Photo: Gian Ehrensberger
  3. 3. #Swederland – don't get this wrong Graphic: Swedish Embassy in Teheran
  4. 4. Process Around Swiss Mail-in Ballots Killer / Stiller : The Swiss Postal Voting Process and its System and Security Analysis
  5. 5. Typical Swiss Election Ballot
  6. 6. Typical Swiss Election Ballot Bonus points for spotting the content manager from Butt-ville.
  7. 7. "We simply can’t build an Internet voting system that is secure against hacking because of the requirement for a secret ballot." Bruce Schneier, Online Voting Won’t Save Democracy, The Atlantic, May 2017
  8. 8. Arguments in Favor of Internet Voting The Swiss Perspective
  9. 9. Arguments in Favor of Internet Voting The Swiss Perspective - Citizens living abroad
  10. 10. Arguments in Favor of Internet Voting The Swiss Perspective - Citizens living abroad - Visually impaired and quadriplegic voters
  11. 11. Arguments in Favor of Internet Voting The Swiss Perspective - Citizens living abroad - Visually impaired and quadriplegic voters - Formally invalid ballots
  12. 12. Arguments in Favor of Internet Voting The Swiss Perspective - Citizens living abroad - Visually impaired and quadriplegic voters - Formally invalid ballots - Security issues of physical voting
  13. 13. The Cantons of Switzerland Graphic: Wikipedia
  14. 14. The Cantons of Switzerland Graphic: Wikipedia Delaware
  15. 15. Timeline 2008 2009 2011 2004 2000 1st project 1st Geneva trial Entering Scytl Consortium Steering Board 1st Swiss internet voting pro-ject is launched with three pilot cantons. Swiss expats are allowed to vote via Scytl internet voting system in canton Neuchâtel. Federal administration and cantons establish a joint steering com- mittee. Canton Geneva runs the first Swiss internet voting trial. Eight Swiss cantons form a consortium and com- mission Unisys with the creation of an internet voting system.
  16. 16. Timeline 2016 2017 2015 2011 Steering Board Consortium dies Scytl/Swiss Post join Mainstreaming attempt Federal administration and cantons establish a joint steering com- mittee. Spanish Scytl and Swiss Post form joint venture and go into production. The eight consortium cantons throw towel after federal admini- stration barrs system from use in national elections. The federal chancellor calls for 2/3 of the cantons to offer internet voting for national elections in 2019.
  17. 17. Geneva Quits Source: Twitter: @GE_chancellerie (1141332323025195009) 2018: Development stopped 2019: System terminated
  18. 18. Timeline 2018 2019 2017 2016 Scytl/Swiss Post join Mainstreaming attempt Geneva quits Source Code Publication Spanish Scytl and Swiss Post form joint venture and go into production. Political quarrels lead to Geneva stopping all further development. A year later, the system is terminated. The federal chancellor calls for 2/3 of the cantons to offer internet voting for national elections in 2019. Scytl / Swiss Post publish the source code of their system.
  19. 19. Swiss Post is Being Quit (for the moment) to be continued ...
  20. 20. Timeline 2018 2019 2020 2017 2016 Scytl/Swiss Post join Mainstreaming attempt Geneva quits Source Code Publication Rebooting Spanish Scytl and Swiss Post form joint venture and go into production. Political quarrels lead to Geneva stopping all further development. A year later, the system is terminated. The steering board establishes a dialog with 25 scientists to assess viability of internet voting and support with writing new regulation. The federal chancellor calls on 2/3 of the cantons to offer internet voting for national elections in 2019. Scytl / Swiss Post publish the source code of their system. Researchers identify three critical vulnerabilities within weeks. The system is put on hold.
  21. 21. Expert Dialogue – Participating Scientists CRYPTOGRAPHERS AND ONLINE VOTING EXPERTS David Basin, ETH Zurich Srdjan Capkun, ETH Zurich Eric Dubuis, BFH Bern Bryan Ford, EPF Lausanne Reto Koenig, BFH Bern Philipp Locher, BFH Bern Olivier Pereira, University of Leuven, Belgium Vanessa Teague, Australia Bogdan Warinschi, Bristol, UK Rolf Haenni, BFH Bern SECURITY INDUSTRY Stéphane Adamiste, SCRT Sergio Alves Domingues, SCRT Tobias Ellenberger, One Consult Source: https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/de/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html COMPUTER SCIENTISTS David-Olivier Jaquet-Chiffelle, University of Lausanne Oscar Nierstrasz, University of Bern Adrian Perrig, ETH Zurich Carsten Schürmann, Denmark Matthias Stürmer, University of Bern Ulrich Ultes-Nitsche, University of Fribourg POLITICAL SCIENTISTS Florian Egloff, ETH Zurich Fabrizio Gilardi, University of Zurich Uwe Serdült, Center for Democracy, Aarau MODERATOR Christian Folini, netnea.com
  22. 22. Expert Dialogue – Participating Scientists CRYPTOGRAPHERS AND ONLINE VOTING EXPERTS David Basin, ETH Zurich Srdjan Capkun, ETH Zurich Eric Dubuis, BFH Bern Bryan Ford, EPF Lausanne Reto Koenig, BFH Bern Philipp Locher, BFH Bern Olivier Pereira, University of Leuven, Belgium Vanessa Teague, Australia Bogdan Warinschi, Bristol, UK Rolf Haenni, BFH Bern SECURITY INDUSTRY Stéphane Adamiste, SCRT Sergio Alves Domingues, SCRT Tobias Ellenberger, One Consult Source: https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/de/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html COMPUTER SCIENTISTS David-Olivier Jaquet-Chiffelle, University of Lausanne Oscar Nierstrasz, University of Bern Adrian Perrig, ETH Zurich Carsten Schürmann, Denmark Matthias Stürmer, University of Bern Ulrich Ultes-Nitsche, University of Fribourg POLITICAL SCIENTISTS Florian Egloff, ETH Zurich Fabrizio Gilardi, University of Zurich Uwe Serdült, Center for Democracy, Aarau MODERATOR Christian Folini, netnea.com
  23. 23. Expert Dialogue – Participating Scientists CRYPTOGRAPHERS AND ONLINE VOTING EXPERTS David Basin, ETH Zurich Srdjan Capkun, ETH Zurich Eric Dubuis, BFH Bern Bryan Ford, EPF Lausanne Reto Koenig, BFH Bern Philipp Locher, BFH Bern Olivier Pereira, University of Leuven, Belgium Vanessa Teague, Australia Bogdan Warinschi, Bristol, UK Rolf Haenni, BFH Bern SECURITY INDUSTRY Stéphane Adamiste, SCRT Sergio Alves Domingues, SCRT Tobias Ellenberger, One Consult Source: https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/de/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html COMPUTER SCIENTISTS David-Olivier Jaquet-Chiffelle, University of Lausanne Oscar Nierstrasz, University of Bern Adrian Perrig, ETH Zurich Carsten Schürmann, Denmark Matthias Stürmer, University of Bern Ulrich Ultes-Nitsche, University of Fribourg POLITICAL SCIENTISTS Florian Egloff, ETH Zurich Fabrizio Gilardi, University of Zurich Uwe Serdült, Center for Democracy, Aarau MODERATOR Christian Folini, netnea.com
  24. 24. Timeline 2020.4 2020.7 2020.11 2020.3 2020.2 Survey Covid-19 hits Online dialogue Additional research Scientific report The dialogue starts with a survey over 62 questions sent to 25 scientists The workshops are replaced with a 12 weeks online dialogue on a dedicated gitlab platform. The steering board publishes the 70 pages report with the re- commendations of the scientists. When the on-site workshops were slowly taking shape, Switzer- land entered a lock- down and the on-site gatherings had to be called off. Several separate re- search articles are commissioned with individual scientists to bring up more infor- mation on individual questions.
  25. 25. https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/en/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html Scientific report
  26. 26. Key Recommendations of Dialogue
  27. 27. Key Recommendations of Dialogue - Strict hierarchy of specifications
  28. 28. Key Recommendations of Dialogue - Strict hierarchy of specifications - Diversity in hard- and software
  29. 29. Key Recommendations of Dialogue - Strict hierarchy of specifications - Diversity in hard- and software - Maximum level of transparency, namely in development
  30. 30. Key Recommendations of Dialogue - Strict hierarchy of specifications - Diversity in hard- and software - Maximum level of transparency, namely in development - Voting security beyond internet voting
  31. 31. Summary - Switzerland is a useful test bed for online voting - Iterative process with strict supervision on federal level - Expert dialogue with recommendations in 2020 Download English version of report from https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/en/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html
  32. 32. Contact Christian Folini christian.folini@netnea.com @ChrFolini Download English version of report from https://www.bk.admin.ch/bk/en/home/politische-rechte/e-voting.html

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