3 Reasons Why Blockchain Won't #ReleaseTheKraken: An Interview with John Sebes of TrustTheVote.org

3 weeks ago 45

Benjamin Bateman Hacker Noon illustration   picture

@benjaminbatemanBenjamin Bateman

Over-opinionated hyphen-abuser, person of words, and magical-internet-money-community-management-busy-body.

Echo-chambers are, arguably, the worst happening to travel retired of our social-media-centric lives since that Auntie of yours who comments however grown-up you look present connected each photograph you post.

While it's a batch of amusive discussing large topics with radical I whole-heartedly hold with, specified arsenic Amelia oregon Gerard, what's beingness without a small heated debate, right?

And, acknowledgment to Free Ton's progressive relation arsenic a subordinate of the Government Blockchain Association, I get to chew the metaphorical cud with those connected some sides of the fence.

John Sebes, CTO of the OSET institute, is an incredibly educated man, passionate astir just and escaped predetermination processes, an progressive subordinate of the GBA, and, importantly for this conversation, believes "Any strategy which claims to beryllium Blockchain voting, is neither blockchain, nor voting."

...Controversial!

"Hi John, what a large time to beryllium debating blockchain (Bitcoin is blowing ATHs retired of the h2o arsenic we speak!). Starting connected a bully casual opener then, erstwhile did you archetypal instrumentality an involvement successful blockchain and cryptocurrency?"

"Well, I archetypal discovered crypto, it was astir apt backmost successful the 80's erstwhile David Chaum came up with the first. Digicash was an absorbing idea, but we were nether the content that Public cardinal infrastructure was feasible astatine the time.

Not that it isn't a large thought but -- keeping backstage keys safely stored by memory? -- not feasible for specified mortals. Blockchain, the different fractional of your question, merges 2 ideas: integer ledgers from Merkle hash trees, and cryptography. This was, astir about, 1992?"

"Early doors then! So, successful your caller blog post, Blockchain (heart) Breakers -- large rubric by the way! -- you commencement disconnected by mentioning a ample information of those who advocator for blockchain based voting arsenic a solution to existent cyber information problems (with net voting), aren't alert what the problems really are. Could you springiness america a speedy overview of the issues arsenic you spot them successful existent systems?"

"There is simply a statement amongst machine scientists and developers funny successful elections, that it would beryllium imaginable to physique a integer voting strategy which would beryllium suitable for the US, but lone if the 6 hard problems of machine subject were to beryllium solved. A ledger lone helps with 1 of these 6 a integer ballot box.

Imagine a strategy successful which idiosyncratic astatine their machine perchance moving amuck with malware ran the archetypal gauntlet of fire, they overcame antheral successful mediate attacks and certification compromises, and the ballot gets to it's trusted extremity point.

That ballot is conscionable a bundle of bits, unfastened to tampering. How bash you past instrumentality this erstwhile it lands connected server, and marque it tamperproof by those with admin entree to the server? Basic problems. Rely connected a azygous company/computer/system, and entree is problematic. A distributed ledger needs to store aggregate antithetic copies of the ledger, truthful nary 1 idiosyncratic tin tamper.

After the conspiracy, it doesn't substance whether oregon not it's immutable Data custodianship is required for immoderate benignant of transaction which has to beryllium stored durably.

Now, you mightiness deliberation this applies to fiscal products, but they person this different bully property.

They are authenticated and easy reversed. Elections rise the stakes! The transaction isn't permanently tied to a person, and if determination is transaction fraud the ballot can't beryllium reversed. It's conscionable excessively bad, you can't instrumentality back!

And that's the different crushed it's not wide utilized — it doesn't lick each of these different problems.

Why instrumentality other measures to unafraid the information aft it arrives, if the information could person been whacked by malware connected the user's machine that sent the information ?"

"Honing the contented successful upon military, overseas and voters with disabilities then, astatine present, the alternate to making it to the polls is email, and adjacent inactive fax. Leaving blockchain retired of it for conscionable a moment, however bash you complaint this system? Is it acceptable for intent arsenic is, oregon does a much viable alternate request to beryllium found?"

"What a wholly horrible idea! 'If you person a integer ballot, and request to instrumentality digitally due to the fact that you couldn't nonstop it successful clip — past nonstop it to america by email?' It is parallel with paper, sure, but from information perspective, it's afloat of warts.

For section predetermination officials (LEOs) specified arsenic Amelia if they are obligated to bash this, possibly determination is simply a amended option. For these peculiar voters, the instrumentality implies that it's good for the elector to beryllium utilizing systems that could infested with malware, that if a ballot is tampered, past excessively bad!

That's the terms of business.

It's excessively atrocious successful the lawsuit of the ballot going to the incorrect place, of a societal engineering attack.

Acceptable risk, due to the fact that the alternate is they don't ballot astatine all. Law implicitly accepts the risks.

Given that email is acceptable. I've got nary beef, per se, with radical trying to supply amended mode for this peculiar class. But it's important to beryllium honest. Just due to the fact that a solution is better, it doesn't mean it's solved the hard problems."

"Leading nicely into the much polarising broadside of the statement then, you accidental that immoderate imaginable Blockchain based strategy introduces an wholly different acceptable of risks to predetermination processes (based connected a DHS, FBI, et al study connected net voting). Could you outline the main risks for us?"

"In insubstantial based distant voting, you person to spot radical successful proscription of your ballot postman, ballot container officials etc. It's a constricted fig of radical and yes, immoderate of whom person important oversight. But it takes a conspiracy to tamper with ballots.

So determination are immoderate risks with insubstantial based absentee voting, but if this travel to fruition, you cognize who the perpetrators are. With integer distant voting you inactive person to spot everyone that could perchance interaction that ballot, lone this time, they aren't authorities officials. Amazon Web Services employees, for example.

You've got nary thought who they are, truthful the radical hazard is greatly expanded. It comes down to the integer onslaught surface. With paper, it's conscionable those radical and their carnal things.

With integer you person each institution successful the chain, truthful determination are much anemic points. Instead a fistful of people, you person immense numbers of computers, each unfastened to attack. The 3rd I'll springiness for present and I could spell on! is that the further harm of immoderate malpractice extends to everyone successful an election.

Now, the quality betwixt retail and wholesale attacks is connected the standard of comparing insubstantial absentees voting and carnal entree tampering. I.e., Your ballot, on with thousands of others, tin beryllium tampered en wide if a retention container is corrupted.

At present, determination is simply a tiny standard up connected the harm with absentee attack. But with integer absentee voting, each the integer ballots tin beryllium attacked with 1 cyber attack, truthful everyone successful this predetermination suffers! One onslaught could virtually alteration predetermination results.

This is the superior crushed wherefore US authorities bodies are saying the risks are excessively large for wide usage by immoderate voter.

As we said though, this doesn't impact the conundrum of UOCAVA, arsenic these are sufficiently debased numbers to tolerate the risk. Let's usage the illustration of Alaska. Do you cognize overmuch astir what they were doing there?"

"Please, bash tell..."

"Well, it's by acold the largest, astir geographically dispersed State successful the US, but, contempt the size, there's not a batch of people. I mean the spot is truthful sparsely populated successful places they don't adjacent get a regular message service, you know?"

"Coming from the small aged UK, the standard of things retired determination blows my caput to beryllium honest!"

"I tin imagine! So, Alaskan voters, for immoderate it is hard to adjacent partake successful insubstantial absentee voting. In response, they were trialling integer ballot return, and, amended than email, they developed a Web Portal to upload files onto a server.

It was primitively enactment successful spot partially for military, but, of course, for the precise distant voters, they expanded this thought to supply absentee ballot digitally arsenic a past resort.

What this means is, if they can't adjacent print, vote, and snail message it back, they tin conscionable waive close to anonymity, and astatine slightest their ballot volition arrive! They were expecting astir 5% with a precocious h2o people of ~9% of the crook retired to usage this, which is already rather a ample proportionality of voting. When it came down to it, for Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was moving arsenic a write-in candidate, the borderline of triumph was overmuch smaller than usual.

In fact, the borderline was precise adjacent to percent of integer ballots returned, though the existent numbers of integer ballots wasn't afloat disclosed. So, soon aft this. what bash you know, they back-peddled. 'It's great, but lone for subject from now!' they said.

They realised it would lone instrumentality a fewer 100 other radical utilizing this enactment astatine each predetermination until they scope treble digits. Then we're backmost to everyone getting huffy astatine a work with lone 3 guys moving the server, and the inevitable outcries of 'Couldn't they alteration if they wanted to!?' begin."

"Can you spot immoderate viable ways to circumvent these issues utilizing existing platforms specified arsenic Free TON?"

"Sure, if determination is anyone trying to physique ledger based tooling that is abstracted from crypto the benignant of ledger that makes consciousness for an predetermination past determination is scope to person an interaction connected processes.

It wouldn't beryllium voting, but alternatively elector registration systems the systems that federation authorities adversaries person conducted cyber attacks successful past truthful determination is existent scope for usage there. In my conversations with Eugene, I've told him that you can't question to instrumentality thing successful the US if privation to person affirmative impact.

They're not going to person it successful the US, nary substance what. It (blockchain) doesn't lick the gating problems, and if it doesn't lick these large issues first, past unafraid information retention for ballots is moot. There is besides the circumstantial occupation we person present of voters needing to beryllium identified by LEOs directly.

And, well, look arsenic however we don't person immoderate signifier of ample standard integer ID successful this country, however bash they bash this? So, arsenic I've said, until these bigger are solved, past to person a important impact, wherefore not spell to Estonia? In Estonia they judge that malware and cyber attacks are a risk.

They judge the risk. It's good if malware changes the ballot anterior to count/being signed, they say, arsenic this is the commercialized off. In the US it is not acceptable to enactment immoderate voters astatine that risk, portion others aren't. The standards for disabled voters, has to beryllium astatine parity with everyone else.

We can't conscionable accidental "don't interest astir malware" it'll beryllium okay, due to the fact that their close to parity is protected. This said, arsenic I mentioned, with subject and overseas, we person immoderate wiggle room, but that is conscionable for this group."

"Do you spot immoderate effect being calved of attempts to usage blockchain to verify votes aft the information (as opposed to being utilized for the vote) specified arsenic the models being designed for Guatemalan elections by the Free TON community, oregon is this astir a Beta-Max benignant interim solution successful your view?"

"In the US? Not astatine immoderate scale. Sorry. If privation to spell connected a large scale, spell to elector registration. Looking astatine Guatemala, determination are galore NGOs (non-government organisations) trying to assistance with predetermination verification. You person a strategy of volunteers, each helping to seizure the accusation astatine the booths, and past making integer copies to beryllium enactment onto internet.

So adjacent here, you inactive request to judge the accusation from volunteers. The NGOs collecting the data, of people they request to store this accusation somewhere.

So sure, putting it connected a nationalist blockchain is simply a large idea! This brings trust. It tin beryllium watched by nationalist successful existent time, aiding believability. It's inactive a garbage-in garbage-out occupation though. If you trusted the volunteers then, with a blockchain, you tin beryllium definite that, aboriginal on, cipher could messiness with the report. Still, this has thing to bash with existent voting.

You can't viably marque it publically accessible, arsenic in, anyone tin run a node akin to a cryptocurrency blockchain. These chains are thing similar a backstage integer ledger that would beryllium utilized by voters and predetermination officials.

Going backmost to the question then, portion I've been watching and americium impressed by the enactment astatine Free TON, the tech which champion fits (so far) successful this field, successful my opinion, is IOTA. It has truly bully unfastened root ledger tech, precise flexible, non-commercial. For anyone that wants to acceptable up thing public, this is the cheapest, easiest mode to my minds eye.

Obviously, determination are different sources though. With regards to transactions based connected integer identity, immoderate authorities organisations accidental that this really go precise utile successful the lawsuit of vaccine passports.

You don't person issues with ballot anonymity with this, the grounds needs to travel from authority, but not forgeable. For this, blockchain is simply a sensible solution."

"Garbage-in garbage-out, absorbing analogy! I'm alert we're moving implicit clip now, truthful alluding backmost to the rubric of the station past (assuming the Hackernoon editorial squad don't tweak it!), if you had to summarise this speech for us, what are the 3 main reasons you spot Blockchain based voting arsenic a non-solution?"

"The net does similar X reasons wherefore articles! Okay...

1) Blockchain doesn't assistance with 2 astir superior issues successful American elections: Malware and the bittersweet information predetermination authoritative person nary mode to digitally place voters. The ineligible request is that elector recognition is done by the predetermination officials, not a 3rd enactment oregon Google, oregon an app which makes you instrumentality a selfie with your passport.

Blockchain doesn't assistance with thing connected the voters side.

We've got to fig retired the integer ID problem, and code malware issues earlier reasoning astir applying blockchain exertion to election!

2) Advocates of the exertion mention Military and overseas usage, but this is simply a country case. Those 2 issues supra tin beryllium waived due to the fact that of peculiar laws. So adjacent successful this constricted use-case, blockchain won't revolutionise thing there, due to the fact that we already person options (stinky email, fax, web portals). All this has already been done, so, fine, instrumentality it connected a integer ledger if you must.

3) Maybe immoderate day, we'll beryllium capable to person everyone who is not subject person a integer ledger which runs successful inheritance of a strategy without them adjacent knowing they're utilizing blockchain. But not until those 6 main machine problems are solved, and we've inactive got 5 to go! You mightiness not similar to perceive this, but blockchain won't beryllium the revolution, astatine slightest not for voting processes. The gyration volition beryllium a solution that solves spot issues, individuality issues, issues of devices with malware.

A solution which answered these issues would beryllium truthful revolutionary, they would wholly reinvent the full machine industry! This is wherefore I accidental (to those claiming to person developed a moving solution), 'You don't person a solution, you person a mitigating system.'

An existent solution: if they had that they wouldn't beryllium selling it to predetermination officials, that's for sure! They'd beryllium selling it to the subject and sleeping successful a slope vault filled with golden coins!"

"Some precise bully points good made, I tin lone anticipation you're incorrect astir the past one! John, it's been large speaking to you, we should decidedly bash this again. Anything other you'd similar to add? Anything to promote?"

"Nothing to shill today, Ben, but convey you for offering! I volition adhd this though, I person a batch of respect successful peculiar for those officials who are seeking a amended solution for Military and overseas voters, and I decidedly person a batch of respect for a tech vendor who says, 'I've got something, it's not a cleanable solution, but it's amended than email.'

The occupation is, I don't cognize anyone saying that. If I recovered that, with published root code, I would truly respect that. But, for now, connected a intelligence level, we person baked it into the communal presumption that computers are utilized to bargain votes.

This is mind, I conscionable don't spot a batch of worth successful a integer distant voting strategy that's a achromatic box. It's conscionable much Kraken nutrient for those looking for ways to accidental votes are being stolen."

Kraken food/Calamari... there's a pun successful determination somewhere. I'll permission that 1 to you though. I anticipation you've learned thing from this conversation, and if not, I anticipation it was entertaining astatine least!

If you'd similar to larn much astir the imaginable blockchain and voting applications, there's a wealthiness of accusation implicit connected the GBA site, and you tin besides cheque retired much of the enactment being done by Free TON successful this country implicit connected our caller developed assemblage site.

Until adjacent time, when, I'll beryllium speaking to a genuine, bona-fide international-superstar-celebrity! You won't privation to miss it!

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