Will this be the future of elections after the pandemic? A look at cybersecurity in the electoral process, and at the future of presidential elections.
In the process of this pandemic by Covid-19 many countries have had to reinvent themselves to carry out their electoral processes in the required period; have had to implement the modality of voting by mail or electronic voting which is beneficial for citizens by maintaining social distance and health standards and still be able to exercise their right to vote. However; as with everything, there is a risk; not all countries were prepared to implement technology in the electoral processes and it has been a challenge for government authorities to keep the elections as transparent as possible.
How are elections conducted electronically?
Voting through electronic means and devices, from a computer with an internet connection; tends to be more comfortable because it can be done from home and it is not necessary to travel to the voting points; free because you have a period of time to exercise your vote and you do not have to set aside a day to go vote, but you can do it in advance by accessing the electoral platform; and easier because the platform itself has the ability to guide people in the voting process so you have less risk of mistakes.
Are there advantages to virtual elections?
Many experts support certain benefits about electronic voting; some of them refer to the ease of voting, since as mentioned above, you only need a computer, phone; or other electronic device with an internet connection. In the same way it reduces costs that voters may have such as transportation expenses, time spent in long lines among other factors. This type of online voting has increased the number of voters in countries such as; Estonia, Geneva and some states in Canada; so it shows a positive reception in some citizens.
It is also estimated that in the long term; electronic voting will generate a reduction in expenses and will have a positive impact on the environment; because in the future, the amount of paper used for printing ballots and distributing them to citizens will be significantly reduced.
Also; electronic elections are more likely to improve the quality of the elections because they mean a lower margin of error than ballots can have; in the same way, Electronic voting offers the option of giving basic information about the parties; likewise, it guarantees confidentiality and the possibility of casting protest votes (expressing the option of not voting).
What about risks?
In the same way as the experts; there is a large number of people, professionals and other experts who express their disagreement with this method of election, due to different reasons; such as the fact that not all citizens have the possibilities or resources to exercise an electronic vote; since they may not have electronic equipment, internet services; among other things. It can also create a digital divide in which people with a better economic position have an advantage over those who do not; in terms of connection quality.
Also considered of little benefit since there are people who may not have a way to access electronic platforms due to lack of expertise with machines and electronic devices; these people may be older adults, people with intellectual disabilities; among others.
It is also believed that electronic voting gives room to electoral fraud; due to the purchase of votes, either by voting on behalf of another person without their consent; or by offering a sum of money to a person who was determined not to vote, in the case of digital voting, this can happen when the voter’s password, which is necessary to carry out the vote, is intercepted. In the same way; in electronic voting it is more difficult to verify the voter’s identity; so a good way to counteract this is by adding a section for digital signatures or reinforcing the passwords.
The challenges of cybersecurity in electronic elections.
In times of elections and pandemics; cybersecurity has been a major focus of attention for government entities, because electronic elections pose a cybersecurity risk. Sensitive information of millions of citizens is handled in these elections; and the storage and counting of votes is a security priority due to the ease of election fraud, data manipulation; and vote buying.
Due to the pandemic, different software has been implemented to speed up and facilitate the vote, as this service is essential and must be implemented despite the circumstances. This aforementioned software used for elections has vulnerabilities that could potentially cause havoc and be detrimental to the elections themselves; thus presenting a number of risks. Some of these directly affect those responsible for election campaigns; and have to do with the theft of mailings with voter information; the theft of funds destined for advertising and campaigns. Another type of risk can be users who fill social networks with false information and harmful viral communication that influences citizens in a negative way by inciting them not to vote.
As a result, governments and IT security experts have emphasized cybersecurity; they have also targeted security towards a number of features that are expected to make a difference; and contribute to more secure and transparent elections. First, integration and automation are expected to be included; as these provide a great opportunity to increase the visibility of processes from a single point of control; which would add more security when monitoring and controlling what happens during those processes; in the same way automated security can provide the opportunity to respond to incidents in real time and manage them more effectively.
Some methods to preserve cybersecurity in elections
Similarly; different services can be deployed to help counteract concerns about a potential cyber threat; such as cloud storage services to improve productivity and network and data security. Another IT solution can be the use of SD-WAN; which allows the management and control of all hardware from a center through a software, this solution is simple and does not require an exorbitant budget; which represents a valid option for governments.
Likewise; another complementary option is the awareness of cyber security in the electoral processes, since in addition to the resources mentioned above, this is a way to reinforce the training and understanding of the voters to reduce the risk of human error when exercising their vote. It can also help reduce doubts and increase voter confidence in electronic voting and help more citizens feel comfortable voting.
Elections are a very important process to ensure democracy in all countries, so it is a service that requires special attention and investment to make them increasingly secure and transparent, it is a hard work that will take time, but we know that the future is uncertain and therefore we must be prepared to resolve any issues that may arise in an optimal way and also know what technological measures can be taken by the representatives of each country to optimize and transcend this important service.