Last winter I was in India to research electronic voting machines there. I was part of a team with Hari Prasad from India and some people from his company NetIndia and Prof. Alex Halderman from the US with some of his students. We had access to a voting machine and we proved that electronic voting machines (called EVMs in India) are just as insecure there as they are anywhere else. Which is not all that surprising, except the Election Commission of India was making a whole brouhaha out of their machines being somehow “untamperable” and “perfect”.
It’s a pretty clear-cut case as these things go. We showed that it was possible to hack the machines in a variety of ways and that there were fundamental problems with transparency revolving, yet again, around unpublished software (that in this particular case cannot be audited, at all, by anyone !). We made a video and we wrote a scientific paper that will be presented at the CCS conference this fall. So we were right and they were wrong. Yet another case of the emperor wearing no clothes.
Except this emperor lives in India. So this emperor doesn’t simply run home in shame to get dressed. This emperor has his soldiers arrest the scoundrel that dared say he was naked.
Yesterday morning at 05:30, cops from Mumbai came to Hyderabad to arrest Hari Prasad. He was taken to Mumbai by road. My friend and colleague Alex Halderman has written a much more extensive piece on the circumstances. Read it. It includes audio of a phone conversation with Hari as he arrives in Mumbai, still in the car with the cops and miraculously still able to use his cellphone. (It was taken from him moments later.)
All of this makes me pause at the fact in some countries the truth has a much longer road to travel and that people in those countries are exposed to some very real personal risks for speaking out. There are democracies where finding out how the votes are counted is not merely frowned upon but actually dangerous.
The Indian blog IndianEVM.com has documents, commentary and much more updates on what’s going on. Hari showed the people of his country how secure their elections are. He needs to be commended and his technical expertise needs to be drawn upon to help safeguard future elections. He does not belong in jail. Please help spread the word. If you know journalists or other influential people in India, you might want to let them know that this is happening.