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Explained: Can EVMs be hacked or tampered with? | India News | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #hacking | #aihp



NEW DELHI: Two days before the election results for Uttar Pradesh and four other states are set to be announced, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday made startling claims of “EVM theft” in Varanasi.
He said that Election Commission officials took away EVMs from a counting centre in Varanasi and charged that the poll panel can no longer be trusted.

These allegations may be quite serious but do not come as a surprise anymore.
Hardly any election goes by in India without political parties leveling allegations of EVM hacking or foulplay.
The Election Commission has rebutted the charges on each occasion, saying that the machines are “unhackable”.
But are they? Experts seem to think so.
In 2019, a committee of experts formed by the poll panel concluded that EVMs are tamper-proof when several opposition parties made allegations of hacking.
In its report, the committee said that since there is no networking component in the EVMs, it is impossible to manipulate them remotely.
“Tampering is only possible with physical access and the elaborate sealing process of EVMs done by the ECI prevents this from happening,” it had said.
The Election Commission, too, has said that same thing.
“…The ECI-EVMs are not computer controlled, are stand alone machines and not connected to the internet and /or any other network at any point of time. Hence, there is no chance of hacking by remote devices,” the EC had said in a press release in 2017.
Now, let’s come to the allegation of physical tampering.
The same authors suggested that EVM distribution across constituencies make tampering very difficult.
The EVMs are distributed across the constituencies via randomisation. The EVMs used in India consist of two units: BU, the balloting unit and CU, the control unit. The BUs and CUs are distributed independently and, on the day of polling, the two are connected. If one of them has been tampered or replaced, they are incompatible, the livemint.com reported citing the findings.
The EC also made a similar statement in its release, saying that tampering at the manufacturer level is impossible.
“After manufacturing, EVMs are sent to state and district to district within a state. The manufacturers are in no position to know several years ahead which candidate will be contesting from a particular constituency and what will be the sequence of the candidates on the BU. Also, each ECI-EVM has a serial number and the Election Commission by use of EVM – tracking software can find out from its database which machine is located where. So, any manipulation at manufacturing stage is ruled out,” it said.
But can Trojan Horse be incorporated into the chip in CU?
The EC explained that stringent security measures make it impossible to introduce Trojan Horse in the field.
Here’s how:
* Once a ballot key is pressed in CU, the CU enables BU for registering the vote and waits for the key pressing in the BU.
* During this period, all keys in the CU become inactive till the entire sequence of casting of that vote is complete.
* Once any of the keys (candidates vote button) is pressed by a voter in BU, the BU transmits the key information to CU.
* The CU gets the data and acknowledges it by glowing the corresponding LED lamps in BU.
* After the enabling of ballot in CU, only the ‘first key press’ is sensed and accepted by CU.
* After this, even if a voter keeps on pressing the other buttons that is of no use as there will not be any communication between CU and BU as the result of those subsequent key presses, nor will BU register any key press.
In simpler words, there can be only one valid key press, which is the first one, for every ballot enabled using CU. Once a valid key press (voting process) is complete, until another ballot enabling key press is made there will not be any activity between the CU and the BU.
Hence, sending of any malicious signal, by way of so called “sequenced key presses”, is impossible in the EVMs, according to EC.
VVPATs
Just like several states in US, paper trail is made mandatory with EVMs in India.
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent system attached with the machines that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
The EC says that because of VVPATs, the voting process is made more transparent for voters.

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