Ex-MI6 Boss: When It Comes To Voting, Pencil And Paper Are 'Much More Secure' Than Electronic Systems

from the and-he-should-know dept

Techdirt has been worried by problems of e-voting systems for a long time now. Before, that was just one of our quaint interests, but over the last few months, the issue of e-voting, and how secure it is from hacking, specifically hacking by foreign powers, has become a rather hot topic. It's great that the world has finally caught up with Techdirt, and realized that e-voting is not just some neat technology, and now sees that democracy itself is at play. The downside is that because the stakes are so high, the level of noise is too, and it's really hard to work out how worried we should be about recent allegations, and what's the best thing to do on the e-voting front.

What we really need is someone distant from the current US debate, and yet with a great deal of knowledge of how foreign intelligence services hack into computer systems. Maybe someone like Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, the UK's CIA. Here's what he said recently to the BBC on the subject of e-voting:

"Bizarrely the stubby pencil and piece of paper that you put your cross on in the ballot box is actually much more secure than anything which is electronic."

And added:

"The more things that go online, the more susceptible you are to cyber attacks."

Since MI6 has probably been involved in quite a few of those attacks, Sir John speaks with a certain authority. He also has a good analysis of why there is this constant push for e-voting, even though security experts are pretty unanimous in their warnings of the dangers:

"The only trouble is, the younger generation of people expect to be able to do things remotely and through electronic devices."

That also goes some way to explaining the naivety of most people when it comes to the Internet of Things. Many people just "expect" everything to be digital and online and linked to its own app, even when it's just a hair brush.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: cybersecurity, e-voting, evoting, john sawers, mi6, security, uk

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2017 @ 10:18am


    Here where I live in CA. We had Electronic Voting machines for 1 year and never again!!! We've been doing what they've been doing in schools forever and that's filling in bubbles. In school it was a #2 pencil, but for voting a pen is used. So you fill in the bubble for whatever person for Yes/No, etc that needs to be voted on.

    So there's no computer cheating possible. There's no dumb hanging chad. Once you fill out the paper(s) you slip it right into the single machine where it add's up the votes. So it's simple. best of all, there's a paper record right there for all those forms with filled in bubbles.

    It's been working great for schools in test taking and it works great in voting. You setup a bunch of stations for people to stand or sit that cost very little money. A screen to kind of block others from viewing what you're doing and some pens. There's just the single scanning machine so costs are much lower.

    I just don't see voting computers are a smart investment. They are used very little and get outdated fast where after so many years you can't get parts at all to fix them. I know this in the food Industry I work in and the touch screen computers the machines use. They get outdated and you can't fix them, you have to replace them at great cost. Replacing hundreds or thousands of voting machines maybe every 8-10 years seems costly!!! Why have a bunch of costly computer voting machines at one voting place when you can just have a single scanner and a real paper trail?

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