May 9th, 2017 when AAP’s software engineer turned MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj demoed EVM tampering in Delhi Assembly. The debate on EVM tampering (which is not new) was going on among people and some media channels also started discussing. I still believe that EVMs are hackable and this belief is not because of Arvind Kejriwal. He is the latest person to bring this issue up and I supported this idea since 2014. Our system works differently and we lack independent organizations which can make some independent analysis with experts and submit their report from time-to-time. Even if there is such institution, our govt and commission should welcome them and accept their report/analysis.
Lets have a look at recent developments after Saurabh Bhardwaj demo in Delhi Assembly.
Such reports were on media news and there was no official press release on ECI website.
May 9: Saurabh Bhardwaj demo in Delhi Assembly (see video above).
May 9: ECI Press release that EVMs are non-hackable (ECI press release)
May 12: All party meet organized by ECI (ECI press release). In this press release it was mentioned that:
CEC also informed the political representatives that the Commission will hold a challenge and offer opportunity to political parties to demonstrate that EVMs used in the recently concluded Assemblies elections were tampered OR that EVMs can be tampered even under the laid down Technical & Administrative Safeguards
May 12: Media reports surfaced that ECI will hold an ECM hackathon challenge while there was no such official press release from ECI except the above mentioned paragraph.
In the meantime, India-made EVM hackathon challenge organized in Botswana surfaced in the news and it was claimed that Bharat Electrical Limited (BEL) will be part of it. Later BEL declined such reports and distant itself from the challenge after the claim that Botswana hackathon challenge can’t hack India-made EVM. This episode got over after this as BEL is not part of it anymore whereas BEL did give a demo on operation of EVM in Botswana.
Remember Kapil Mishra from AAP episode in between and the amount of media coverage and debates?
May 20: ECI announced EVM challenge on its press release (ECI press release) stating a detailed report similar to EVM status report released on May 9th. The rules about participation were also mentioned here and only two mode of EVM tampering were allowed.
a. Using press of combination of keys on CU or BU or BOTH, orb. By communication to CU or BU or Both via external wireless/Bluetooth/mobile phone etc.
This press release again mentioned EVM history, strong room security, EVM history from The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and USA. Report strongly mentioned that EVMs are tamper proof and proposed challenge on Jun 3rd does not allow any physical modification to EVMs.
Citing this restriction, AAP wrote to ECI on May 26th that why it is running away from “no-holds-barred hackathon” as reported by media around May 12 (as I mentioned there was no such press release from ECI), ECI returned to AAP that there no such promise made. You can read full letter here. I still don’t understand that it was media who reported it wrong or it was someone from ECI that leaked this information to media? Factually, if something is not released officially then it should not exist. Same issue was raised by Arvind Kejriwal in his tweet after such news surfaced around May 12.
By the deadline to inform ECI about the intention to participate in the challenge, only two parties submitted their interest. Later on June 3rd, on the day of actual challenge (I wont call it Hackathon as it never existed) both the parties didn’t participate and ended up with some suggestions about educating people. You can read full press release here.
About the questions raised for municipal elections, ECI turned away saying that EVMs for municipal elections are not provided by ECI so it can’t be held accounted for. Yes, we will agree with you as one should not be held accounted for a work one is not responsible for. Even though both the EVMs looks similar and may have the possibility of getting mixed up with other elections, then why??? Because there are super cops and 3rd generation strong room.
So far with the EVM episode, I have learnt a lot about present EVM, their security, strong room and recent development in different countries about the use of EVMs. In two important press releases, ECI cited history of EVMs in The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and USA using various sources (link available in press release) but forgot to cite conference paper which described the detailed procedure of hacking the India-made EVM. When it happened, ECI discarded the hacking technique used in the research paper and jailed the author Hari K Prasad for EVM theft. Yes, EVM was stolen from the most secure strong room of ECI.
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