Online voting appeals to many aspects of modern society – such as geographically spread communities, or progressive universities wanting to hear their students’ voices. It also appeals to global NGOs, and municipalities looking for citizen involvement in neighbourhood and city-wide decision making. However, the risks of making critical choices online are also high, with large-scale online voting opening up vast opportunities for cybercriminals to fix the results.
An innovation from the Kaspersky Lab Business Incubator was announced during Kaspersky Lab’s Cyber Security Weekend for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. It offers a possible solution: a customisable online voting platform for non-commercial organisations, businesses and communities, which uses blockchain technology and is secured with transparent crypto algorithms.
In the modern efficiency-driven, mobile world, various limitations of offline voting have become apparent: it’s expensive, time-consuming and often inaccessible – or at least challenging, for people who aren’t physically present to cast a vote. Online voting can help overcome these challenges, but this brings several uncertainties of its own – how can we secure the process? How can we make sure that our votes aren’t changed or altered by an external or internal party?
As part of a research project focused on exploring the potential implementations of innovative technologies such as blockchain, Kaspersky Lab Business Incubator has fostered a talented team of developers who have worked on an experimental project called Polys. This has resulted in a new commercial solution, which aims to provide anyone with the ability to conduct secure, anonymous and scalable online voting – with results that cannot be altered by participants or organisers.
Vartan Minasyan, Head of Investment and Innovation at Kaspersky Lab, comments: “In our Kaspersky Lab Business Incubator we’re supporting both internal and external teams in developing bright ideas and technologies, which can be implemented in various areas where safety and security are important. One such area is online voting and, when exploring the possible implementations of blockchain in particular, our team realised that this technology combined with the company’s cybersecurity expertise could solve key problems related to the privacy, transparency and security of online voting. We’re excited that we have been able to create a suitable environment for this internal innovation.”
Polys is based on smart contracts in Ethereum (sometimes referred to as Blockchain 2.0) which allows ballot verification and vote tallies to be performed in a decentralised manner. The main benefit is that, due to blockchain’s decentralised nature, the accuracy of voting execution can be verified by the network’s participants.
The whole voting data is stored not on servers, but in information blocks on the computers of all network participants: to erase it, a hacker would have to breach all of the computers and gain access to the individual sets of data.
Blockchain also allows a voter to easily check if their vote has actually been registered correctly and any tampering of votes will automatically become evident. Blockchain transparency makes it easier to monitor votes and complete voting audits by independent parties. It also doesn’t require extra resources or the need for the physical presence of personnel.
In addition, within the Polys voting system, blockchain is encrypted and backed up with mathematical algorithms. These help to ensure anonymity, hide intermediate results and perform calculations on the encrypted data, which is something that can’t be done in other blockchain systems due to its distributed and open nature.
By implementing these algorithms in the smart contract environment, using the advantages of blockchain while eliminating its limitations, Polys stands out as a distinctively innovative project.
The source code of Polys will be publicly available – allowing anyone to test, verify and explore the technology behind it. Any blockchain enthusiast, penetration tester or e-voting supporter will soon be able to find it on GitHub.
Jutta Steiner, Co-founder of Parity Technologies, comments: “Parity Technologies is excited to be involved with Polys as their platform of choice for such an innovative project. Blockchain is increasingly being implemented by a vast number of industries and we believe that decentralising the voting procedure will ensure a fair process and create a high level of trust in the system.”
Polys is designed to support voting at all levels and for any number of participants. Upon a special project request, the platform can be made fully scalable with capacity for thousands of voters in international corporations, political parties, universities, global communities, NGOs, etc. This implementation can be tailored to specific requirements in terms of authorisation, the interface design, and integration with other services. It is available in select regions only; interested parties can learn more about availability and pricing by filling out a contact form on the website.
In addition to the customised platform, there’s also a ready-to-use freemium service that is available for everyone. To arrange a vote, one simply has to go the website, create a poll in the Organiser Panel and fill in the voting information (such as the names of candidates or other participants, along with any extra details). The rest of the work, such as sending emails to voters and counting votes, is carried out by Polys.