Blockchain Tech for Securing Dig Voting Systems? Results are In

Kaspersky Lab today announced the winning collegiate teams in its Cybersecurity Case Study Competition, hosted by The Economist’s Which MBA? site.

The grand prize winner was New York University, second place was awarded to University of Maryland, College Park and Newcastle University received third place.

Over the past few weeks, 19 teams from universities in the U.S. and UK were challenged to create a blockchain technology solution for securing digital voting systems.

Participants provided written and video submissions detailing their proposals on blockchain-compliant systems that addressed specific security challenges, including voter privacy, undecided voters, voter fraud and more.

Challenge summary

Technology has the potential to change everything it touches. But can it play a greater positive role in democracy and the way people make the most important decisions about the future of their countries?

Digital voting brings up a new frontier of challenges: from guaranteeing the anonymity of the voters to the prevention of fraud, all the while needing to ensure the security of the voting system itself. One small vulnerability or oversight could very well change the course of a nation’s history.

Blockchain technology could hold the key to a solution for securing digital voting systems. However, there are issues that need to be addressed before we can rely on this technology to seal our fate.

Your job is to design a blockchain-compliant system for digital voting that addresses the following security challenges to provide a reliable digital platform for democracy. We recommend that you provide a working proof of concept.

Privacy and the ability to check votes

How will your digital voting system ensure voter privacy? How will you guarantee that each voter is unique and can still test how their vote was tallied?

Voting under duress

Since voting may no longer occur in a secure space, how will you mitigate the risk of voting under duress? Will your solution pose performance issues or present new abuse potential? If so, how will you address these?

Availability of interim results

Where countries may legally prohibit the publication of interim results, how will your digital voting system ensure that data cannot be seen until the end of the voting process?


How will you handle undecided voters or those who wish to abstain? How can you ensure that these ‘blank’ votes aren’t being used to fraudulently support a candidate?

Voting Aftermath

Once the votes have been counted, there is always the possibility that voters will contest the election. What mechanism is in place to address these claims?


U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler
U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler

“I want to wish congratulations to New York University for their victory in the 2016 Cybersecurity Case Study Competition,” said U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

“Today, STEM education is more important than ever as Americans face increased competition from abroad for the well-paying, high-skill jobs of tomorrow. America has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and it is higher education programs, like the one at NYU, that will ensure we remain there.”

“I’m proud that the University of Maryland, College Park, has been recognized as one of the leading centers for cybersecurity research in the country,” said U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), who also offered his congratulations to the Maryland-based finalists.

U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer
U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer

“In Congress, I’ve worked closely with President Loh, state leaders and federal education and national security agencies to highlight the benefits of investing in cybersecurity research in Maryland, which boasts a top-notch education system and proximity to critical defense, intelligence, and homeland security infrastructure.”

“As our nation faces new and challenging cyber threats to our security and to our businesses’ intellectual property, we must continue to invest resources in developing cutting-edge cyber defenses such as those being designed and tested at the University of Maryland, College Park, in Maryland’s Fifth District.”

Kaspersky Lab experts served as the judging panel, selecting the top three proposals out of the 19 submissions. Additional information for each award-winning submission is below:

New York University

    • In first place, and recipient of the $10,000 grand prize, was New York University.
    • The university’s submission proposed the usage of a “permissioned blockchain” configuration, in which a central authority admits voting machines to the network prior to the start of the election, followed by voting machines acting autonomously to build a public, distributed ledger of votes.
    • In addition to addressing threats to the integrity of the system, NYU’s plan allows voters to tell if their individual vote was counted.

University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center

  • Second place and $5,000 was awarded to the University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center, which proposed a solution rooted in global public keys that encrypt ballots and provide voter receipts using randomly generated numbers.
  • The university’s proposal also features cryptographic tree data structures that allow citizens to check if their vote was counted.

Newcastle University

  • Winner of $3,000 and third place was Newcastle University, which proposed a solution rooted in three protocols: the Open Vote Network, DRE-i and DRE-ip.

“The competition was very interesting and I was very impressed with the submissions,” said Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab.

“There was a lot of good work there! The challenges of cybersecurity mean the next generation of experts face a changing frontier – there will be plenty of things to work on and securing digital voting systems for national elections is just one example.”

“If cybercriminals exploited one small vulnerability, it could potentially change the course of a nation’s history, and these young scholars are bringing us one step closer to making secure digital voting a reality.”

To access the award-winning submissions from the Kaspersky Lab Cybersecurity Case Study Competition, please visit The Economist’s Which MBA? site.

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