Block Chain Fantasy…Chained for good!

We told you so.  And now it is final, from the Hartford Courant: With $400M Fintech Village apparently dead, West Hartford Town Council prepares to move on; 

Aug 2019:  West Hartford Scam Playing Out As We Predicted 

Beware: The Gospel of Internet Voting

LA Times article features the entrepreneur behind Internet voting pilots vs. Science: The vote-by-phone tech trend is scaring the life out of security experts <read>

With their playbook for pushing government boundaries as a guide, some Silicon Valley investors are nudging election officials toward an innovation that prominent coders and cryptographers warn is downright dangerous for democracy…
As seasoned disruptors of the status quo, tech pioneers have proven persuasive in selling the idea, even as the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine specifically warn against any such experiment…

Tusk is certain participation in elections would surge if the technology were widely permitted, even though studies in some of the few places around the world that have tried the method revealed no big turnout boost

Crusade, Gospel, Genie seem appropriate to describe entrepreneur Tusk. Its a blind disregard for evidence, science, and the scientists, including yours truly, warning of the risks of Internet voting

Book Review: Bad Blood, Fantasyland, (and Blockchains)

I recently read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. I could not put it down. Not surprising since it has been on the NYTimes best seller list for months and its the only book I have noticed on Amazon with a full five star rating – with currently just over two-thousand reviews. But for me it was more than that.  It brought back memories of a good portion of my career in the eighties and nineties, along with my last fifteen years concerned with electronic voting.

All reminiscent of Kurt Andersen’s book: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. To me, just like the California Gold Rush, minus the gold.

National Academy of Sciences study: Blockchain may make voting more vulnerable

While the General Assembly contemplates how Blockchain might solve some undefined problem in our voter registration system, we point to a National Academy of Sciences study Securing the Vote, Protecting American Democracy:

The blockchain abstraction, once implemented, provides added points of attack for malicious actors…Furthermore, blockchain protocols generally yield results that are a consensus of the miners/stakeholders. This consensus may not represent the consensus of the voting public. Miners/stakeholders with sufficient power might also cause confusion and uncertainty about the state of a blockchain by raising doubts about whether a consensus has been reached.

Four pieces of testimony on five bills, including Blockchain and RCV

On Wednesday the GAE Committee held testimony on another raft if bills.

The bills, and links to my testimony, in priority order: (Take a look at all the testimony <here>, best to look by bill number than date)

H.B.5417 A proposed study to use blockchain to solve some undefined problem in voter registration. I opposed, perhaps the only one in the room who is a computer scientist. In summary, if someone wants to sell you or asks you to invest in blockchain – Run. Run fast and keep your eye on your wallet and passwords! …

Three Experts on Blockchains

Do you need a public blockchain? The answer is almost certainly no. A blockchain probably doesn’t solve the security problems you think it solves. The security problems it solves are probably not the ones you have. …A false trust in blockchain can itself be a security risk. The inefficiencies, especially in scaling, are probably not worth it. I have looked at many blockchain applications, and all of them could achieve the same security properties without using a blockchain—of course, then they wouldn’t have the cool name.

Blockchain a technology with great claims, without documented success

Blockchain has been wildly mis-sold, but underneath it is a database with performance and scalability issues and a lot of baggage. Any claim made for blockchain could be made for databases, or simply publishing contractual or transactional data gathered in another form.

the Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting

From David Jefferson at Verified Voting: Verified Voting Blog: The Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting <read>

Internet voting has been studied by computer security researchers for over twenty years. Cyber security experts universally agree that no technology, including blockchains, can adequately secure an online public election. Elections have unique security and privacy requirements fundamentally different from and much more stringent than those in other applications, such as e-commerce. They are uniquely vulnerable because anyone on Earth can attack them, and a successful cyberattack might go completely undetected, resulting in the wrong people elected with no evidence that anything was amiss….

Election security is a matter of national security. Blockchains, despite all the hype surrounding them, offer no defense against any of these well-known threats to which all online elections are vulnerable.

It’s Impossible to Know (how) Your Internet Vote Counted

As West Virginia plans, once again, to allow Internet voting for military voters, it is a good time to remind everyone that Internet voting (web page, web application, email, fax voting etc.) are all unsafe for democracy. And that block-chains cannot solve those problems.

One of those problems is that there is no guarantee that your laptop or smart phone has not been hacked in a way that  alters your vote. Another challenge is the, so called, Secret Ballot.

Do you need a blockchain? (Probably not!)

Blockchains are the latest technology to enter the mainstream.  A blockchain powers and makes BitCoin possible. Many are treating blockchains as the next big breakthrough in technology. There is even a Blockchain Caucus in Congress.

Do not get your hopes up or bet your retirement savings on blockchains, they are definitely not the next Internet or Hula Hoop.  Most importantly they will not transform elections or solve the challenges of online voting.

From IEEE Do You Need a Blockchain?

“I find myself debunking a blockchain voting effort about every few weeks,” says Josh Benaloh, the senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research. “It feels like a very good fit for voting, until you dig a couple millimeters below the surface.”