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Inside Quantum Technology’s “Inside Scoop:” Quantum and Voting

Voting is another field that quantum computing could give an advantage to, whether providing extra security or a faster analysis and counting process.
By Kenna Hughes-Castleberry posted 10 Mar 2023

Nearly all political systems around the world use some form of voting to establish power, make changes, and enact policies. In the United States, the voting system has historically been seen as a fair method to establish political democracy. Yet recently, this system has been challenged by claims of counterfeit votes or mis-counting. Other countries have also had their fair share of voting issues, such as the 2017 French political election and 2018 Italian political election during the Euro crisis of the EU. These controversies show the weaknesses in current voting systems, as they can be hacked or tampered with. To try to address these weaknesses, several researchers have begun looking at applying quantum technology, particularly quantum cryptography, to making voting systems more secure.

Even With Different Voting Schemes, Benefits are the Same 

Because of the digital age, most countries implement either E-voting (electronic voting) via voting machines, or I-voting (internet voting) via a personal computer. Both systems are supposed to provide complete security and privacy for all voters, but that is not always the case. According to Jordi Puiggali Allepuz, the Chief Security Officer and Senior Vice President of Research and Security for Scytl Election Technologies SLU, quantum computing could offer a heightened level of security, and other benefits. “Quantum computers will bring new security mechanisms stronger and robustness than the ones implemented now a days,” Puiggali Allepuz stated. “For instance, it will bring new cryptographic algorithms specifically designed for quantum computers, that will be stronger and more efficient than current ones (including new post-quantum cryptographic algorithms). These computers can use quantum physics properties to implement cryptographic mechanisms (quantum cryptography), so this type of cryptography will be part of their design (e.g., to detect any eavesdropping attempt of the data they are processing internally). Artificial Intelligent algorithms designed for these computers will become better and faster for analyzing security data (e.g., logs, traces, or traffic), improving user authentication (better Know-your-Customer mechanisms) and security detection and prevention systems.” Puiggali Allepuz is part of a team at Scytl that has been developing a proof-of-concept quantum resistant I-voting system with protocols as part of a project called Prometheus H2020.

Besides security, both E-voting and I-voting can benefit from a more optimized voting process driven by quantum computing. “The main improvement that quantum technology will bring to the voting process will be the speed of the counting process,” explained Puiggali Allepuz. “Any electronic counting, results consolidation or seat allocation process done electronically, will generate the results immediately because of the capacity of quantum computers processing them. Other expected improvements will also be having immediately statistical processing of election data at different levels as well as projections or the generation of any other information linked to election process.” For E-voting specifically, there are other benefits that quantum technology can give. As Puiggali Allepuz said: “From the voting machine point of view, it will also improve the accessibility of the voting process to voters, including new interfaces for voters that currently are not responsive enough on current computers. This will be of paramount importance for voters with disabilities.” This increase in accessibility can also encourage more individuals to vote, particularly those of historically underrepresented backgrounds. “Additionally, it will make some processes of the voting machine more efficient in terms of speed (when technology is mature enough to make quantum computers small enough), but the voting process per se will remain human centric and therefore, processes that requires actions by the voter will not be affected,” Puiggali Allepuz added. “This also applies if votes are still hand counted before introducing the results on quantum computers.” While there are many other potential benefits, the main advantages of heightened security, faster processing, and better accessibility already suggest that this technology can significantly help to improve our democratic processes in the future.

Security Issues with Voting Systems

Though quantum technology may have some big implications for improving the world’s voting systems, this next-generation technology also poses some serious threats. As many are already worried about the potential security threats caused by quantum computing, these concerns are compounded even further when thinking about threats to voter data as well as the integrity of the entire voting system. For E-voting, there are many potential issues. As Puiggali Allepuz explained: “Regarding voting machines, this could be a real problem if these machines are still based on current technology (non-quantum). So, it will be necessary to move to quantum-based technology to implement protection measures against these attacks. In fact, we need to consider that quantum computers could be also used to attack traditional based voting system (e.g., paper voting). For instance, quantum computers could be used to compromise in person authentication of voters (e.g., could be used to physically impersonate a voter at a level difficult to detect by human means) or process information in paper votes that could not be perceived by election officers or observers. So it should be expected that traditional voting process will need the assistance of quantum technology to protect them against these attacks.”

I-voting is not safe either, as voter information could be potentially threatened. “Regarding election data, it is a risk now a days if we are not taking the proper measures to protect current data against future attacks,” Puiggali Allepuz said. “For instance, as mentioned before, current cryptographic algorithms will not be strong enough in front quantum computer attacks. Therefore, any data encrypted using these cryptographic algorithms will be immediately decrypted in the future, losing its privacy. Furthermore, it is also important to consider that quantum computers will be more efficient at executing algorithms capable to process large amounts of data. Said that, we need to consider that attacks against voter privacy could be designed in the future based on current vulnerable data.” Thankfully Puiggali Allepuz suggested some potential mitigations for these threats. “To this end, we need to start to implement measures that will prevent current data from being exposed to these types of attacks,” he added. “For instance, while not using post-quantum algorithms to encrypt data, we should not publish election data that could potentially contain information that could compromise voter privacy. More concretely, publishing encrypted votes should be avoided. This is especially relevant on blockchain based systems, since by definition blockchain information cannot be deleted and stays forever. So, in a future, quantum computers could be used to process blockchain data, decrypt votes and correlate them with the origin using algorithms that correlate the blockchain data with other data sources that have not been properly protected.”

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology.

Categories: quantum computing

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