As European countries prepare to ramp up cyber defences in the face of increasing concerns over the threat of election hacking, India's election commission (EC) has taken an unprecedented step by openly challenging the public to hack its electronic voting machines(EVM). The EC will reportedly host a 10-day hackathon in May, where hackers can make their way to the EC's offices and try their luck.
The hackathon is reportedly aimed at assuring the public about the security and effectiveness of EVMs over paper ballots and comes amid opposition parties' allegations about EVMs being vulnerable to tampering.
India has been using EVMs since 1999, completely doing away with paper ballots. This lies in stark difference from other Western nations. Some European countries that use EVMs are yet to completely do away with paper ballots for voting and vote counting.
Given India's sole dependence on voting machines, the risks associated with the possibility of hacks are significant. However, India's EC appears to be confident that the EVMs are hack proof. According to unspecified sources that spoke to local media, the commission is slated to meet with the leaders of all major political parties ahead of the hackathon to conduct a demo, aimed at demonstrating that the machines can't be manipulated.
The dates of the hackathon are yet to be confirmed, according to reports. In 2009, the commission had allegedly hosted a similar event and had then claimed that no one was successful in their attempts to hack its EVMs.
However, beginning 2019, according to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, the EC will reportedly use Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) linked to EVMs, for added security.