Monday, January 21, 2019

Bruhaha over hacking EVM

Recently an interesting claim was made by a hacker that India's EVMs are hackable and they have been hacked frequently by pretty much all political parties to change the results. Unfortunately, the event was advertised as an event where the hacker will demonstrate hacking of the machine. The event itself was a complete letdown. There was no demonstration of hacking and a bunch of claims was made by Syed Shuja.

  1. Back in 2013, he claimed, he had the assignment to study a PCB of an EVM. As per his claim, his assignment was to find if the EVMs are hackable. He claimed the EVM uses a very old chipset that has an FSK/ASK modulator/demodulator. The kernel has to be bypassed to load the enable this. Also, an antenna has to be installed on the PCB.
  2. He claimed that this assignment was not to find faults but to find methods to make a better EVM. 
  3. He claimed that there are multiple EVMs made which enable this communication by installing the antenna.
  4. Then the hacker went into theories about multiple murders and attacks that happened in order to silence people who knew about all this.
  5. He also claimed that his identity has been erased from Indian system and there is no proof that he existed.
Now, keeping the conspiracy theories aside, I think this can be quickly put to rest by ECI by enabling hardware audit of a set of randomly chosen EVMs from all the manufacturers. Any electronics engineer worth its salt can figure out whether the claims made by the hacker are tenable or not.
Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. So it is just going to be claims and counterclaims. Hacker will say we can hack EVMs, ECI and government will say it can't be hacked.
The question is not to ban EVMs and bring paper ballot back. But the question is to find out if the current EVMs in circulation have hardware and software that deviates from reference architecture as approved by TEC. Also a higher percentage of matching of VVPAT slips have to be mandated.

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