Headlines: August 20th, 2002

Voting through a text message is likely to prove popular. A survey by CMG, the ICT services company showed that 78% of people would be keen to use their mobile phone to send a text message to record their vote at the next General Election, if the service was available. Any text messaging system would need “electronic credentials” made up from the voter ID, candidate codes and PIN numbers. These could be set up by post. It is thought that distributing credentials by paper rather than electronically is more secure. Text messages would be processed immediately and a confirmation message sent out.However, a report by the government’s technology security agency, the Communications Electronics Security Group, raises serious security concerns including a lack of standardised user equipment. The research also highlighted reliability problems with mobile phone text-messaging technology which is inherently a ‘best effort’ delivery medium with no guarantee of successful delivery. The Government security experts believe that the confirmation message to the voter may have to be sent several times to increase the likelihood of at least one getting through.

The security experts identified where potential threats to security of the voting system may come from. They list legitimate users who may have significant technical resources and may want to subvert the service for financial gain. Others who may pose a threat include operators of e-voting systems who may include government employees and protest groups who may oppose the whole idea of e-voting. The list also includes foreign intelligence services who may wish to manipulate the outcome and investigative journalists.