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24 August, 2010

Researcher who questioned EVM reliability is arrested

Photo: Courtesy

Hari K. Prasad, Managing Director of Netindia, a research and development firm, has been arrested following his refusal to disclose the source that provided an electronic voting machine to a team of security researchers, according to a report at the SiliconIndia website.

He and other researchers have long questioned the security of India's paperless electronic voting machines.

The Election Commission of India insists that the machines are tamper-proof.

As per the reports Prasad was questioned Saturday morning at his home in Hyderabad by authorities who wanted to know the identity of the source who gave the voting machine to the research team. Prasad was ultimately arrested and taken to Mumbai, though reportedly hadn't been charged with a crime.

In 2009, the commission publicly challenged Prasad to show that India's voting machines could be compromised, but refused to give him access to the machines to perform a review. Earlier this year, an anonymous source provided a machine to a research team led by him. The team exposed security flaws that could allow an attacker to change election results and compromise ballot secrecy. They published a paper detailing their findings.

Human Rights groups point out that the Election Commission should have given researchers access to the voting machines in the first place. Prasad is a respected researcher who helped to discover a critical flaw in India's voting system. He and his fellow researchers would never have been able to document the weaknesses in the voting machines without the help of the anonymous source. This is precisely why anonymity is important: it allows people to make important contributions to the public dialogue without fear of retribution.

Netindia describes itself as an “IP Surveillance & Streaming Systems & Solutions company. The company, based in Hyderabad, was incorporated in February 2000.

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