Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can You Vote for Me Now? Estonia First Country to Cast Cell Phone Votes

The Estonian Parliament has passed a law that will allow its citizens to vote via cell phone by 2011. In the past, Estonians were able to cast their votes over the Internet which apparently worked seamlessly despite security concerns. See Sara Peters’ coverage of e-voting in Estonia in the November 2005 Alert.

The cell phones will each have a free, authorized chip for their phone that will verify each voter’s identity. However, the Estonia government should be wary of this new system because of what could happen if a person’s cell phone is stolen and used to cast a vote. Additionally, hasn’t it learned from its sustained cyber attack on the country’s Internet infrastructure last year?

Although Estonian officials did not accuse Russia of being behind the attacks, relations between the Kremlin and former parts of the Soviet Union have been on shaky terms. The cyber-attack involved users overloading the Internet system, thus making it impossible for Estonians to perform such basic tasks as buying bread, milk and gas. Several of the main targets were Estonian government ministries, news and communications organizations, and banks.
The Estonian government estimated the attack cost 2.7 million to 4.5 million US dollars in damages.

Estonia is the first country to have cell phone voting, but supposedly Finland and Sweden also have the capability to hold one. Time will tell how cell phones set the tone for future voting methods.

Kristen Romonovich is Associate Editor at the Computer Security Institute. She is dedicated to secure green computing, compliance in the cloud and the security of mobile devices. Learn more at our upcoming conference CSI SX: Security Exchange,, May 17-21 in Las Vegas.

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