Fixing the Achilles Heel of E-Voting: The Bulletin Board

Abstract

The results of electronic elections should be verifiable so that any cheating is detected. To support this, many protocols employ an electronic bulletin board (BB) for publishing data that can be read by participants and used to perform verifiability checks. We demonstrate that the BB is itself a security-critical component that has often been treated far too casually in previous designs and analyses. In particular, we present novel attacks on the e-voting protocols Helios, Civitas, and Belenios that violate some of their central security claims under realistic system assumptions. These attacks were outside the scope of prior security analyses as their verifiability notions assume an idealized BB.

To enable the analysis of protocols under realistic assumptions about the BB, we introduce a new verifiability definition that is applicable to arbitrary BBs. We identify a requirement, called final-agreement, and formally prove that it is sufficient and, in most cases, necessary to achieve verifiability. We then propose a BB protocol that satisfies final-agreement under weak, realistic trust assumptions and provide a machine-checked proof thereof. Our protocol can be used as a replacement for existing BBs, enabling verifiability under much weaker trust assumptions.

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