Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said today that the results indicate an “EVM wave, not Modi wave”. The party has decided to launch a national campaign against what it alleges are faulty EVMs or Electronic Voting Machines.

“This chamatkari (magical) victory of the BJP - this is only EVM lehar (wave) not Modi lehar,“said Gopal Rai, adding, “The entire country has to think how to be free of this EVM-wave.”

Meanwhile on monday a group of trained engineers and scientists, from India and abroad (drawn primarily from IITs and other premier science institutes), have, in response to the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, urged chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to allow them an opportunity participate in the exercise fully and fairly to assess the security strengths and weaknesses in the security of the electronic voter machines.

Special Correspondent

The scientists and engineers also spelt out how they would like the EVM challenge to proceed to enable proper understanding of “EVM security strengths and weaknesses”.

Holding that it was almost impossible to “determine with certainty that EVMs are tamper-proof,” no matter what the qualification of an individual, the group wrote that since “electronic devices can be designed to detect when they are being tested, and it is practically impossible to test for every possible configuration and scenario,” therefore if the EVM challenge does not detect a problem, it certainly would “not mean that election outcomes are guaranteed to be secure in the future”. In this regard, it said, only “regular VVPAT audits can help address this issue.”

Giving out their “position in EVM security,” the scientists and engineers wrote that “electronic devices cannot be guaranteed to be immune from tampering when there are a large number of insiders with access and non-insiders with malicious intent, attempting to subvert the device’s functioning. These include everyone who may have access to the EVM over the cycle of design, manufacture, testing, storage, maintenance, calibration and deployment.”

However, the design by itself, the group said, is not sufficient to protect the EVM from tampering or error. “A general class of vulnerabilities is common to both the western machines and the EVM. These vulnerabilities arise because of the difficulty of determining exactly what a given electronic machine will do in every scenario, and because those with physical access can change and probe aspects of the hardware or software (for example, they can fit the machine with a wireless receiver, swap out a ROM, or determine the key used to provide cryptographic security).”

Earlier few activists then showed on TV channel a ‘machine’ which they claimed can be manipulated. ECI countered allegation that the ‘machine’ was stolen from EVM warehouse in Mumbai, subjected to changes by activists and thus it was no longer the ‘machine’ used by ECI.

Special Correspondent

The Critical Points put forward by the trained engineers and scientists group who accepted Election Commission’s EVM challenge are:

1) The group noted that the EC had in 2009 prevented some type of access – when it disallowed physical tampering – and therefore “it should explain why an insider or a criminal would not have that kind of access”.

2) The group has suggested that individuals should be allowed to choose their instruments and to physically tamper with an EVM and they should be provided with design documents and test descriptions and results, as well as information about the security procedures in place, for each generation of EVM currently in use.

3) It also demanded that the results obtained by each team examining the EVMs should be made public; a longer term test by a team with in-depth expertise in computer security and voting system security should be performed; and finally a team of experts should be tasked with preparing recommendations to address each important security vulnerability discovered during the challenge.

4) the group said, “from a technical perspective, such allegations are best addressed by auditing VVPAT records where they exist.” Additionally, it said, “independent of the outcome of the challenge, the EC should check the outcome of each election by creating, maintaining and auditing VVPAT records.”

The group said, “independent of the outcome of the EVM challenge, the EC should enable the creation of VVPAT records, ensure their secure storage separate from the EVMs, and conduct regular VVPAT audits for each election.” The audits, it said, should involve the examination of a randomly-chosen subset of the VVPAT records.

5) The group said there is no clarity on how secure these EVMs are because while “the EC has announced several times that it believes that the EVM is tamper-proof because of certain design aspects, there has been no release of any detailed information about these design features.”

In light of all these aspects, the group said, the EVM challenge, beginning on May 1, 2017, should be treated as a means through which voters in the world’s largest democracy may understand the security strengths and weaknesses of their voting technology. “It would be a waste of time and energy if the EVM Challenge is executed as a superficial exercise without full access and transparency,” the letter said, adding that a “genuinely open and substantial” exercise would enhance the trustworthiness of the elections and the vibrant nature of Indian democracy.

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