Switzerland Launches Bug Bounty Program for E-Voting Systems

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The Swiss government last week announced the launch of a public bug bounty program for its electronic voting systems, with rewards of up to $50,000.

Switzerland has been conducting e-voting trials since 2004 and the national postal service, Swiss Post, now believes it has developed a fully verifiable system that can make e-voting widely available in the country.

The security of the e-voting system is being tested by an “accredited body,” but Swiss Post is also launching a bug bounty program open to hackers from all around the world. White hat hackers can sign up on onlinevote-pit.ch, and between February 25 and March 24 they will be given the chance to conduct penetration testing on both the frontend and backend of the e-voting system.

The government has allocated CHF 250,000 ($250,000) for this project, which it has described as a public intrusion test (PIT). Of that amount, $100,000 will go to SCRT, the Swiss cybersecurity firm that helps run the bug bounty program, and the rest could go to the researchers who find vulnerabilities.

Hackers can earn between $30,000 and $50,000 if they find vulnerabilities that can be exploited to manipulate votes without being detected by voters and auditors. Voting manipulation methods that are detectable can earn participants up to $20,000.

Server-side flaws that allow an attacker to find out who voted and what they voted can earn hackers as much as $10,000, while vote corruption issues can be worth up to $5,000. The smallest bounty, $100, will be paid out for server configuration weaknesses. Participants will be allowed to make their findings public.

The source code for the e-voting system is publicly available, but Swiss Post noted that source code vulnerabilities must be reported separately if they cannot be exploited against the test system.

The bug bounty program is open to anyone and over 1,000 individuals have already registered, including from Switzerland, (30%), France (17%), the United States (5%), Germany (5%), and Canada (4%). However, it’s worth noting that the e-voting system is only available in German, French, Italian and Romansh – there is no English version.

Switzerland’s electronic voting system involves voting cards that citizens receive via postal mail. These cards contain data needed to cast a vote online. Researchers who take part in the PIT project will also be given these cards for testing purposes, but they will be sent electronically instead of snail mail.

Related: Securing the Vote Against Increasing Threats

Related: Electronic Voting – The Greatest Threat to Democracy

Related: Georgia’s Use of Electronic Voting Machines Allowed for Midterms

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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