Why Can't We Vote Online?

11/08/2016 04:05 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2016

We do almost everything online these days because it’s more convenient: shopping, banking and even dating, you do that.

So why don’t we vote online?

In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton asked the National Science Foundation to look into the viability of online ballots.

The committee found that internet voting systems quote “pose significant risk” and that quote “E-voting requires a much greater level of security than e-commerce ― it’s not like buying a book over the Internet.”

And now, 17 years later: it’s still just not safe.

No, your life isn’t in danger by voting online but your vote is.

Because cyber security is still so fallible, there’s no way to be certain that our elections haven’t been tampered with if we vote online.

Even if we eventually figure out that someone did mess with it, by that time it’ll be too late for that election!

If you bank online and buy things online, aren’t those transactions safe?

Unfortunately, no.

Banks, credit card companies and online retailers lose billions of dollars a year due to online fraud but you rarely hear about it because if consumers believed that their data wasn’t secure, the online market would collapse.

Instead, the company either absorbs the loss itself or passes it down to you via fees and maybe higher prices.

Fraud online often starts with pulling your name, credit card info and other personal information.

And one way they do this is with malware.

One of the most famous recent cases comes from the malware named Zeus.

The program is designed to wait until you connect with your bank and then use those credentials to transfer money out of your account.

It doesn’t matter if you have a secure connection because the malware is already inside the computer.

In 2014, the FBI announced that it had disrupted the GameOver Zeus botnet but not before $100 million was stolen from accounts around the world.

If they can do that, it’s not hard to think that hackers could do the same thing when it comes to voting!

Malware could vote on your behalf or even change your vote.

McAfee, the security and antivirus company, notes that financial or espionage motives were involved in 89 percent of online security breaches.

They believe that the hackers are usually criminals who are looking either to profit personally or on behalf of nation-states looking for political leverage.

That is exactly what security experts fear the most: an inability to truly control an online voting system where elections could be determined by someone other than the voters.

That being said, there is one country that relies on online voting: Estonia!

They succeed by using a government ID, with a chip, and associated PIN code AND a card reader for your PC.

Voters can track their vote with an app, and parts of the software are available for public inspection.

Estonians can also vote as often as they want but only their last vote will count.

This minimizes the chance that somebody forced their vote.

Estonia believes their system hasn’t been compromised, but security experts argue that just because their system hasn’t been interfered with yet, doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t be in the future.

Independent assessments of Estonia’s online voting system, done in 2011 by the organization Verified Voting, and in 2014 by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that voters’ privacy as well as the servers used were vulnerable to attack from anyone or anywhere.

The UMich report said there were quote “staggering gaps in procedural and operational security, and the architecture of the system leaves it open to cyberattacks from foreign powers,

such as Russia.”

While the Estonian government disputes this, it still makes a lot of people nervous.

But, why can’t we just copy their system? Estonia also uses a national ID card, something the US doesn’t have.

Estonia has about 1 million eligible voters, the US has over 225 million eligible voters.

And to be frank, elections in the U.S. are more closely watched around the world… both by citizens and hackers.

Security for a US election would obviously be much more complicated to say the least.

On top of that, voting is supposed to be anonymous.

And right now we don’t have the technology to track the integrity of anonymous ballots.

In the end, it seems like the system we have now is the one that works best and appear to be the most secure.

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