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Lecture on EVMs creates chaos in Gandhinagar,rescheduled

A session on security issues in electronic voting machines was cancelled at the last minute at a seminar in Gandhinagar on Wednesday morning.

Written by Adam Halliday | Ahmedabad |
December 16, 2010 3:21:38 am

Foreign experts claim allowed entry to India on condition

they will not present paper at the seminar

A session on security issues in electronic voting machines (EVMs) was cancelled at the last minute at a seminar in Gandhinagar on Wednesday morning. The opening session was rescheduled as the two foreign experts were allowed entry to India only if they were not to present their paper and be mere tourists.

Hari Prasad,an Indian expert who has demonstrated tampering of the EVMs,kept away from the session as he had to attend a bail hearing in a Mumbai court.

Authorities at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communciation Technology (DAIICT) in Gandhinagar,where the 6th International Conference on Information Systems Security (ICISS 2010) is being held,are tight-lipped.

“We scrapped the session as the experts did not turn up. This happens frequently in international conferences,” said Professor Chandan Mazumdar,a organising committee member. The institute director remained unavailable for comments.

The original session was to be addressed by Alex Halderman,Assistant Professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan,the US,Rop Gonggrijp from The Netherlands,Poorvi Vora from George Washington University,the US,and Hari K Prasad from the Hyderabad-based NetIndia (Pvt) Limited.

Halderman,Gonggrijp and Prasad had co-authored “Security Analysis of India’s Electronic Voting Machines” in February 2010,for which they had sourced an Indian EVM and demonstrated its tampering. Prasad was later arrested and now faces a Boffins’ Gujarat lecture on EVM creates chaos,rescheduled trial in Mumbai.

Their paper argues how EVMs “are vulnerable to serious attacks that can alter election results and violate the secrecy of the ballot.”

On their arrival on December 12,Halderman and Gonggrijp were detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport,New Delhi,for 18 and 15 hours.

Prof Halderman told The Indian Express from Mumbai that he and Gonggrijp did not attend the conference in Gandhinagar because “we were told very explicitly when we passed immigration that our visit should be strictly restricted to tourism.” The instructions were issued verbally,though they insisted it be given in writing by the officials.

Gongripp,who has blogged on this controversy,added: “In an interesting twist,the officials are now claiming that Halderman and myself were apparently issued visas by mistake.”

Halderman said they had originally applied for the conference visa,but “the conference was awaiting government clearance,so we had to seek tourist visa”. “The organisers did not specify the visa type in the invitations. We hoped that by the time we arrived,the conference would have received the nod and everything would be sorted out,but it ended up being sorted out the wrong way,” he said.

He added,“It’s a shame for Indian democracy because there would have been a lot of people attending that paper presentation who could have worked to make India’s voting system more secure.”

Prof Prasaid was arrested this April after he refused to divulge the identity of the person who had given him the EVMs. He was granted bail on August 28. The bail challenged,the hearing was scheduled on December 13,but came up for hearing only on December 15,the day of the seminar.

Ironically,while the tutorial on EVMs has been scrapped from the conference schedule,the same schedule shows two other tutorials,three keynote talks and 10 sessions that are to be conducted by foreign academics from Eurpoe,the US and Asia.

Vora,who was scheduled to present the tutorial along with Halderman and his friends,will now present a paper on another topic ¿ “A method for enhancing universal verifiability” on December 19,the concluding day of the conference.

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