Will Gen-Next EVMs resist e-bombs?

A Google search for e-bomb yields five million results, plus an invitation to shop for e-bombs on Google. The price ranges from ₹5,000 to ₹16,000. The EC does have security issues to address on EVMs

Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

Even as the controversy in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh over the fallibility of electronic voting machines rages on, the Election Commission is all set to buy the next generation of EVMs which are likely to be introduced by 2018, a year ahead of the next general elections.

While the EC has decided to replace 9,30,430 EVMs purchased before 2006 as the older machines were nearing their 15-year life cycle, Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary had informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply last week that the new EVMs would become “inoperable” the moment attempts are made to tinker with it.

The tacit admission that the current batch of EVMs continue to be operational even if they are tinkered with has given rise to unease.

Parliament was informed that the ‘M3’-type EVMs are also equipped with a self-diagnostic system for authentication of genuineness of the machines. They would come with a public key interface-based mutual authentication system.

Only a “genuine” EVM—manufactured either by atomic energy PSU Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) or defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)—“communicates” with other EVMs in the field. Any EVM manufactured by other companies would not be able to communicate with other machines, thus exposing it.

But, what if some miscreants try using sophisticated tools such as e-bomb (electromagnetic bomb)? That could affect the circuits and change the vote patterns, if not during voting but later while being transferred or stored before counting takes place. Would there be Faraday cages (a shield that would block electromagnetic fields) and other protective measures taken into consideration? The Centre and the EC needs to look into these issues seriously.

Around ₹1,940 crore (excluding freight and taxes) would be required to procure the new machines which are likely to be introduced by 2018, a year before the next Lok Sabha elections are due.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the Law Ministry had said that EC has not purchased a single new EVM in the last three fiscals. Chaudhary had said that the poll panel has informed the government that it had not procured any EVM during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

With PTI inputs.

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