BFH researchers analyse Swiss Post’s e-voting system

02.06.2022 A team of researchers from Switzerland and abroad has carried out in-depth analysis of the e-voting system currently being developed by Swiss Post. Experts from the E-Voting Group at the Institute for Cybersecurity and Engineering ICE of Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH were also involved in the analysis.

“There are few countries with such strong interest in a digital voting system as Switzerland,” explains Rolf Haenni, IT professor and researcher in the E-Voting Group at BFH’s Institute for Cybersecurity and Engineering ICE. This is due to the relatively high number of referendums and elections held each year. Various proposals to introduce an e-voting system nationwide have been made over the years, but have so far proven unsuccessful. The latest initiative – the Swiss Post system – is making strong progress but there are still shortcomings to resolve. This was highlighted by the analysis commissioned by the Federal Chancellery.

Mixed results

The experts from Switzerland and abroad also included BFH researchers Rolf Haenni, Reto Koenig, Philipp Locher and Eric Dubuis. They scrutinised the cryptographic protocol and the system’s software. Compared to predecessor versions, researchers identified major improvements, highlighting the positive aspect of continuous dialogue between science and industry. They nevertheless detected security vulnerabilities in several areas which could jeopardise the privacy of voters or make the system susceptible to attack. The researchers also underlined that the system is still clearly in the middle of the development phase. They concluded that it does not meet the rigorous requirements in its current form and requires further improvement.

Many years of experience in e-voting

BFH is Switzerland’s leading research institution for e-voting. It has been conducting research on this topic since 2009 and has gained a wealth of experience and established a good network over the years. In collaboration with the canton of Geneva, the researchers from the E-Voting Group were themselves involved in the development of a digital voting system several years ago, which means they have a good insight into the most common vulnerabilities and major challenges from their own experience. They have also been tasked with analysing proposed systems by the Federal Chancellery on several occasions in the past.

Swiss Post’s development is now entering the next stage and researchers will carry out more in-depth analysis on the application from mid-June to establish whether it meets the stringent requirements. After all, as Rolf Haenni points out: “An unreliable voting system puts democracy in jeopardy.”

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