Australia’s Election Proposal To Combat Cyber Attack
As a precaution to the risk of getting its election hacked, Australia has to create a special task force that will be tasked to inspect and prevent security issues come election time. This proposal is announced by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Titled “Report on the Conduct of the 2016 Federal Election and Matters related thereto”.
The document provides a vague description of how Australia can prevent the possibility of their election system getting hacked by hacker groups, especially those funded by state-actors. “The committee has already identified the need for a permanent task force to prevent and combat cyber-manipulation in Australia’s democratic processes and clarification in the legal framework surrounding social media services and their status as a platform or publisher,” said in the report.
The Committee on Electoral Matters has brought the issue of the Australian Parliament House network breach into the national discussion. Persuading all political parties to help each other in order to have a safer network that operates the legislature of the country.
“In total 31 recommendations are made to support better elections in the future. The use of technology is considered. Although there is a popular call for electronic voting, the Committee cannot support it without much greater confidence in the security of electronic voting options. Instead, the Committee considers that other technological improvements to the electoral system will offer greater benefits, such as the national rollout of electronic certified lists and improvements in options provided to blind and low vision voters,” explained the Committee.
The committee emphasized that they are for free, fair and transparent elections based on the principles of Australian democracy. They highlight the importance of having a credible election which in turn brings people of Australia to trust the soon to be newly elected parliament. The Committee brings to the table a serious discussion where foreign powers may interfere and sway voters through the use of social media bots and social engineering. They believe that new term of reference in order to fully understand the implications of social media influencing has in the minds of the voting population.
This is crucial for the fact that according to the Australia Institute: “Australia has among the highest participation rates in the world, while electoral turnout has been falling for decades internationally. In Australia, a decline is apparent from the 2010 election—from an average of 95% turnout for the previous 85 years to 91%, a fall of 4 percentage points.”
Dr. Vanessa Teague, a private citizen who provided the committee a comment about the issue stressed that scrutinizing the vote made through a computer system is a real challenge. “It is actually really hard to do a good job of scrutinizing a computer because a computer can print up on the screen a very comforting message saying that it has helpfully recorded the vote that you asked it to, but in fact, the actual internals of what the computer is doing could be wrong. There could be an accidental configuration error or a software bug, or there could be a deliberate attempt at fraud from either the outside or the inside. So it is a real engineering challenge to design a system that allows verifiable evidence of the right election outcome if the election involves significant use of computers,” said Teague.