Organisation : Election Commission of India
Announcement : FAQs on Security Features of ECI-EVMs
Applicable For : Political Parties And Candidates
Home Page : http://eci.nic.in/eci/eci.html
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ECI Security Features of EVMs FAQs
In the recent past, there have been some queries in the minds of common people about the security features of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) of Election Commission of India (ECI).
Related : ECI FAQ on MCC Model Code Of Conduct : www.electionin.in/5396.html
The Election Commission has, time and again, stated that ECI-EVMs and its systems are robust, secure and tamper-proof.
The following FAQs give a detailed view of security features including latest technological features of EVMs and stringent administrative measures taken at every step of its usage from manufacturing to storage.
1. What is meant by Tampering of EVM?
Tampering means alteration in the software program written either on existing microchips of Control Unit (CU) or introducing malicious software program by inserting new microchips in CU and also making keys – pressed in Ballot Unit (BU) not record faithfully in the Control Unit.
2. Can Trojan Horse be incorporated into the chip in CU?
Sequence of voting in EVM eliminates the possibility of injection of Trojan Horse as mentioned below. The stringent security measures by ECI make it impossible to introduce Trojan Horse in the field.
Once a ballot key is pressed in CU, the CU enables BU for registering the vote and waits for the key pressing in the BU. During this period, all keys in the CU become Inactive till the entire sequence of casting of that vote is complete.
Once any of the keys (candidates vote button) is pressed by a voter in BU, the BU transmits the key information to CU. The CU gets the data and acknowledges it by glowing the corresponding LED lamps in BU.
After the enabling of ballot in CU, only the ‘first key press’ is sensed and accepted by CU. After this, even if a voter keeps on pressing the other buttons that is of no use as there will not be any communication between CU and BU as the result of those subsequent key presses, nor will BU register any key press.
To put it in other words, there can be only one valid key press (the first key press) for every ballot enabled using CU. Once a valid key press (voting process) is complete, until another ballot enabling key press is made there will not be any activity between the CU and the BU.
Hence, sending of any malicious signal, by way of so called ‘sequenced key presses’, is impossible in the Electronic Voting Machines being used in the country.
Latest Technological Features & Storage
3. What are the latest technological features to make ECI-EVMs tamper proof?
The ECI-EVMs use some of the most sophisticated technological features like one time programmable (OTP) microcontrollers, dynamic coding of key codes, date and time stamping of each and every key press, advanced encryption technology and EVM-tracking software to handle EVM logistics, among others to make the machine 100% tamper proof.
In addition to these, new model M3 EVMs also have tamper detection and self-diagnostics as added features. Since, software is based on OTP the program cannot be altered, re-written or Re-read. Thus, making EVM tamper proof. If anyone make, attempt, the machine will become in operative.
4. Do the ECI-EVMs use foreign technology?
Contrary to misinformation and as alleged by some, India do not use any EVMs produced abroad. EVMs are produced indigenously by 2 PSUs viz. Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad.
The Software Programme Code is written in-house, by these two companies, not outsourced, and subjected to security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity.
The programme is converted into machine code and only then given to the chip manufacturer abroad because we don’t have the capability of producing semi-conductor microchips within the country.
Every microchip has an identification number embedded into memory and the producers have their digital signatures on them. So, the question of their replacement does not arise at all because microchips are subjected to functional tests with regard to the software.
Any attempt to replace microchip is detectable and can make EVM in-operative. Thus, both changing existing programme or introducing new one are detectable making EVM in-operative.
5. What are the possibilities of manipulation at the place of storage?
At the district headquarters, EVMs are kept in a double-lock system under appropriate security. Their safety is periodically checked. The officers do not open the strong room, but they check whether it’s fully protected and whether the lock is in proper condition or not.
No Unauthorized person can get access to the EVMs at any point of time. During non election period, Annual Physical Verification of all EVMs is done by DEOs and report sent to ECI. Inspection & checking have recently been completed.
6. To what extent are allegations of EVM tampering in local body polls true?
There is a misunderstanding in this regard due to lack of knowledge about jurisdiction. In case of elections to Municipal bodies or Rural bodies like Panchayat Elections, the EVMs used do not belong to the Election Commission of India.
Above local bodies elections come under the jurisdiction of State Election Commission/s (SECs), which procure their own machines and have their own handling system. ECI is not responsible for functioning of EVMs used by SECs in above elections.
Levels Of Checks And Balances
7. What are the different levels of checks and balances ensuring tamper proofing of ECI-EVMs?
First Level Checking
BEL/ECIL engineers certify originality of components after technical and physical examination of each EVM, undertaken in front of representatives of political parties. Defective EVMs are sent back to factory.
The FLC Hall is sanitized, entry is restricted and no camera, mobile phone or spy pen is allowed inside. Mock poll of at least 1000 votes is conducted on 5% EVMs selected randomly by reps of political parties and the result shown to them. The entire process is video graphed.
EVMs are randomized twice while being allocated to an Assembly and then to a polling booth ruling out any fixed allocation. Mock Poll at polling station is conducted in front of polling agents of candidates on the poll day, before polls begin.
After Poll, EVMs are sealed and polling agents put their signature on the seal. Polling agents can travel upto strong room during transportations.
Candidates or their representatives can put their own seals on the strong rooms where polled EVMs are stored after the poll and also camp in front of strong room. These strong rooms are guarded 24×7 in multilayers.
The polled EVMs are brought to the Counting Centres and Unique IDs of the seals and CU are shown to reps of candidates before start of counting.