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Developers Criticize Russia's Blockchain-Based Elections, Government Claims No Problems


The Russian electoral commission said the blockchain-powered mobile voting platform used in yesterday's two by-elections was a success, but experts in the country appear to disagree with the Kremlin on the type of technology the system should use.

Per Kommersant, Minister for Digital Development, Communications and Media, Maksut Shadayev, said that two by-elections, held in Yaroslavl and Kursk provinces, did not experience "significant technical failures" during the three-day period in which it was operational. . The Central Electoral Commission He said he is confident that the security of the system is high.

Blockchain-based voting via smartphones and PCs has become an urgent issue in Russia this year, where it has been used locally in Moscow's public voting, as well as at two test sites: the capital and Nizhniy. Novgorod for a referendum in summer.

The government said it intends to implement blockchain voting for next year's parliamentary general elections, and is using a platform built by the long-distance phone provider. Rostelecom, which is majority owned by the Russian state.

The only problem experienced in yesterday's by-elections, the minister said, was a minor problem related to a user trying to access the platform using an outdated web browser.

However, several leading developers in the country have criticized the platform, claiming that it is not a proper decentralized blockchain network as it is hosted on Rostelecom servers.

The operator has published its source code on the GitHub repository, but the developers were quick to comment that the platform has data vulnerability issues, with some claiming that it would be relatively easy to discover the identity of voters and even find out how they had voted.

The news outlet quoted Sergei Aksenov, head of server software development at the developer FunCorp, saying:

“The voting process itself takes place on Rostelecom's servers. As such, there is nothing to prevent (the operators) (…) from adding a number of votes and then rewriting the entire blockchain and getting the desired result. The encryption, electronic signature and data storage mechanisms used would not prevent this at all ”.

Another professional developer claimed that the algorithms used in the platform's cryptographic protection system were not "reliable", since only encryption algorithms approved by the Russian intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), can be used on state platforms.

The expert added that the Rostelecom algorithms used in the blockchain voting system conformed to an outdated security standard.

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