Russian Blockchain Voting System Attacked by Hacker to Disrupt Voting

Russia has been in the process of creating and using a blockchain-based voting system. This system is playing a key role in determining the changes to be brought into the country’s constitution. Given Russia’s strategic presence in the world, having internal and external enemies of the state is not anything new. So, it was not a surprise when one of the observation nodes on the blockchain came under attack from a hacker.

The news was first shared on the website of Russian news agency TASS. The information regarding the attack was provided directly from Artem Kostyrko, who is the head of the department of IT technologies in the Russian government. According to him, the attack did not seem to have any apparent damage to the system as the voting continued without any issues. However, there is still no clarity on whether the attacker managed to get into the system, if they got anything, or even how far were they able to reach.

Speaking about taking steps to enhance security, Kostyrko said, “At present, increased security mode has been introduced. There was no interruption in voting, all votes are in the guaranteed delivery service, that is, they will be recorded on the blockchain.”

Surprisingly enough, the only real problem that the election website has faced so far is a crash that happened on the very first day. The system went into an overload since so many people decided to log into the website at the same time. However, unlike that, blockchain has a lot of nodes, which you can deal with individually. Currently, the node that was under attack has been moved offline for further inspection and will be added back once it is considered safe to do so.

Golos Grigory Melkonyants, who is the head of the observers’ movement during the Russian elections said that the observers were unable to access the blockchain’s observer nodes. This means that the issue could not have come from an observer node.

The IT Department for the city of Moscow is given the responsibility of running the website and keeping it live during the election process. According to Artem Kostyrko this website is not collecting any data directly and is in fact only acting as a “storefront” for the real websites designated for collecting and sorting the votes that the system captures. It is also taking care of other transactions along with the recorded blocks.

The observers’ movement wanted to implement the system in a more distributed form. Melkonyants said that “We suggested that the system is at least distributed between the district polling stations, but that was not accepted.” The reason for keeping it all centrally managed was also not shared by the government. This limitation means that observers do not have more frequent access to the data that the system is generating. The frequency for downloading data is half an hour after which the system will make a CSV file available that includes the encrypted votes from the last 30 minutes.

When reached out for a response, the IT department of the Russian government did not provide one, saying that they required more time to prepare an official response on the matter. Details on the attack itself are also therefore quite limited at the moment. New information may be provided once the Russian government’s IT department releases more information regarding the attack and direct questions are taken from journalists on the matter.

According to the article shared by TASS, one of the key things on the voting agenda is to let the people decide if Vladimir Putin should continue to stay in power for two consecutive terms, each lasting for six years. The constitution currently does have a limit for two terms for any president of Russia.

These issues are of prime importance to the Russian people and voting via blockchain is providing a brand-new implementation scenario for many governments. The decision-making process is to last for five days, starting on Thursday, June 25, 2020, and end on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

There is a lot of participation in the voting as well, with approximately 1 million people registering to vote from Moscow alone via the blockchain system. in addition to that, another 140,000 people also registered to vote on the system from Nizhny Novgorod.

It was only two or three weeks ago that the government announced that they are hiring Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab for creating the system. While the voting system and sites are created by Kaspersky Lab themselves, the blockchain setup came from Bitfury, a Netherlands based firm providing complete suite blockchain services.

The following days are extremely important, not only for the Russian president Vladimir Putin but also the people of Russia. However, perhaps the most important thing about the elections for this community is seeing how blockchain performs in such a scenario, thereby holding the potential for much more expansion in the field.

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