These machines need to be tested for any possible security flaws — that is a standard operating procedure which is carried out by the world’s biggest technical conglomerates to make their systems foolproof
An interesting incident regarding Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) has hit the headlines in recent days. Hari Prasad, managing director of Hyderabad-based Net India Private Limited, was arrested for 'stealing' an EVM.
He 'stole' the machine to demonstrate that the EVM can be tampered with. In fact, he - along with a University of Michigan professor and a Dutch security researcher - has even published a research paper on the vulnerability of the EVM.
In today's world of security, hacking into a system in a lab environment to show its vulnerabilities is an accepted practice. It is called by various names such as ethical hacking, or penetration testing. The only difference in this case is because of the way in which Mr Prasad acquired the machine to test the hacking techniques. Mr Prasad's claim is that he had approached the Election Commission (EC) with a request to allow him access to the machine, but they refused to do so; at the same time
the EC claimed that the EVMs are foolproof and secure. Finding no other way to address an issue which is at the heart of India's democracy, namely free and fair elections, Mr Prasad acquired the machine by other means.
Mr Prasad in my opinion has done a great service to the nation. By showing that the EVMs can be tampered with, he has opened up a dialogue on the vulnerability of the EVMs. The EC on the other hand is blatantly misleading the Indian people saying that these machines are secure. Further, they refused to allow access to these machines to security professionals. If indeed the machines are secure as they claim, why not allow access to security professionals?
In fact, the EC should have hired ethical hackers themselves to find vulnerabilities in their machines.That is the practice followed worldwide by companies whose products can be potentially hacked. The behaviour of the EC reeks of ignorance of current security practices.
That the implications of their behaviour hit at the crux of India's 'free and fair' elections makes that an act against the nation's wellbeing itself.
Our EC has over the years gained a good reputation for conducting the world's largest free and fair elections. But this act nullifies at least some of it. It is high time the EC opens up the machines to public and professional security. There is nothing wrong with having security vulnerabilities provided one has an open mind and they are fixed. Right from Google to Microsoft's products, no popular product in the world has escaped security holes. It is by fixing the security holes that the product keeps becoming more and more secure.
Meanwhile, today's reports indicate that some of the top officials in India have claimed that there is a political conspiracy to discredit India's election process via this hacking attempt. Politicising everything is the nature of India's politicians. It is irrelevant to the discussion whether there is a political angle behind Mr Prasad's act or not. That certainly does not absolve the EC of its lack of attention to security vulnerabilities in the machine. It is also interesting that the EC is not concentrating much on the technical aspects of the vulnerabilities disclosed by Mr Prasad. At least, getting into a deeper technical dialogue on that front and openly showing that the vulnerabilities disclosed by Mr Prasad are not critical would give more credibility to their response.
It is high time this country wakes up to this and fixes the vulnerabilities in EVMs lest politicians take advantage of the vulnerabilities and doctor the elections, assuming they have already not done so in the last elections.
(The author has a B Tech from IIT Bombay, and a PhD from Columbia University, New York. He currently runs a start-up, Teknotrends Software Pvt Ltd that does cutting-edge work in the area of network security).
Mumbai: India's largest life insurer, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), has crossed the mark of one crore individual policies for the current financial year, with first premium income of Rs15,917 crore in the fortnight ended 14 August, 2010, reports PTI.
In the previous year, LIC had crossed this landmark on 31 August, 2009.
Among the largest contributors to this stupendous performance are LIC's western zone with more than 15.86 lakh policies, south central zone with 15.46 lakh policies, northern zone with 15.04 lakh policies, north central zone with 13.54 lakh policies, south zone with 12.78 lakh policies and eastern zone with 12.29 lakh policies, a press release issued here said.
East central zone with 9.52 lakh policies and central zone with 5.98 lakh policies also made valuable contributions, the release said.
During the previous financial year, LIC had completed a record 3.88 crore individual policies, with a market share of 73.02%.
LIC's performance in the current financial year has been record-breaking so far and as on 31st July, it has increased its market share in first year premium to 71.33% as against 64.86% as on 31st March.
Besides having the largest customer base of about 27 crore policy holders, it has an enviable conservation ratio of more than 90% which is a testimony of customers' trust in the organisation and its high-quality customer service, the release said.
Currently, it provides fully computerised and networked service through its 2,048 branch offices and 1,035 satellite offices spread throughout the country.
Panaji: The booming professional social networking website market is likely to surpass the business of job board websites, reports PTI quoting a top industry expert.
"If you look at the trend, job board websites are losing their market to professional social networking websites. More and more people have started looking at these websites as the ultimate platform," Yogesh Bansal, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of ApnaCircle.com said.
ApnaCircle.com, a three-year-old professional social networking website, has positioned itself as a 'Business and Career' networking site.
The CEO claims to have 30 million users worldwide of which 1.6 million are in India.
He was speaking on the sidelines of 'Advertising Public Relation Event Entertainment' (APREE) at Arpora, 20 km away from here.
The three-day event, which has drawn professionals from across the country, began on 26th August. The organisers said they used a lot of social networking websites to get speakers for the event, which is being held for the third time in Goa.
"We banked a lot on social networking for this edition.
For instance, we tracked one of the speaker Harish Bijoor on Twitter and we left him messages to which he replied," Salma Yamini, operation head-APREE said.
Harish Bijoor is a brand domain specialist operating out of Bangalore and runs a unique boutique consulting outfit branded Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, a brand name that has a consulting presence across the markets of Hong Kong, Seattle, London, Dubai and Indian sub continent, she said.
Ms Yamini said that APREE this year will discuss 'tools in surging economy' and professional social networking websites is one such tool, which is widely used by the industry to reach out to people.
Bollywood actor Sanjay Suri, who was present at the event, was of the opinion that offline and online networking should overlap as it helps in better communication.
"I have raised funds and sourced talents using social networking sites for the film. There are 400 producers from across 30 cities who were contacted through social networking websites. The film is now complete," he said.