Hack it if you can

The electronic voting machine has been under strong scrutiny ever since it was deployed in the 1990s. The Indian EVM is a singular instrument with its dependence on standalone hardware-firmware-led machine components to register and tally votes — it is not reliant on computer software or networked components. Questions have been therefore raised about the possibility of EVM-tampering either by the introduction of malicious code (trojans) that could override the logic embedded in the chip, replacing its chip, or manipulating the communication between the ballot and the control units through remote signals or equipment. The Election Commission has evolved improvements over time to address these concerns, and has strengthened technical and administrative safeguards to prevent any manipulation. The steps include time-stamping of key presses, dynamic coding in second-generation machines besides tamper-proofing and self-diagnostics in the third-generation machines that are now being deployed. A strict administrative protocol involving first-level checks after manufacture, randomised deployment, sealed strong rooms for storage, and conduct of mock polls has been instituted. The EC has pledged the universal deployment of voter verifiable paper audit trails beginning 2019. VVPATs will add another layer of accountability, allowing voters to verify the choice registered on the ballot unit in real time, and the machine-read vote tallies post-election. These steps have obviously not satisfied some political parties which have used the logic of machine fallibility to claim that their recent electoral losses were a consequence of EVM tampering rather than actual voter choice. The Aam Aadmi Party recently demonstrated what it claimed to be a possible hack of the EVM by the introduction of a trojan on to an EVM prototype; it said that, therefore, it was possible to manipulate all EVMs by the replacement of its motherboard (to accommodate a chip that carried a built-in trojan). This critique does not stand scrutiny considering the EC’s technical and administrative safeguards that prevent trojans or the mass manipulation of EVMs. The EC’s challenge to political parties to participate in a hackathon on June 3, to test out manipulation of EVMs with the various safeguards in place, is welcome. The scepticism of some political parties apart, there is definitely a case for constantly improving EVM design and security features in order to completely rule out any sophisticated tampering attempt, howsoever difficult it is to carry it off considering the strict administrative safeguards in place. The more transparent the EC is about demonstrating the robustness of its safeguards and its determination to improve them further, the greater will be the public’s trust in the electoral process.

Message from Riyadh

During the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump was particularly critical of Saudi Arabia. He attacked its treatment of gays and women and slammed the Washington establishment for taking “their money”. He had also vowed to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and, upon becoming President, actually issued an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to the country. (The order was later blocked by the courts.) But by choosing Saudi Arabia as his first overseas destination as President, Mr. Trump has signalled that his administration will retain the Washington establishment line towards West Asia. So while addressing leaders from over 50 Muslim countries in Riyadh on Sunday, he was extremely careful not to hurt the kingdom’s sensibilities. He called for unity in fighting terrorism and said “Islam is peace”. He noted Saudi Arabia’s attempts at “empowering women”, overlooked its disastrous military operation in Yemen and assailed Iran for fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror”. He also signed a $110 billion arms agreement with the Saudis. The message Mr. Trump is sending from his Saudi visit is clear: His administration will re-endorse Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, as a key pillar of America’s West Asia policy and ignore criticism of Riyadh’s human rights violations at home and interventions abroad. America will also supply its rich Arab allies advanced weapons: the defence industry at home will obviously benefit from such deals, creating more jobs. Mr. Trump may be trying to kill too many birds with one stone. The Saudi-American partnership, that dates back to King Saud’s visit to Washington in 1957, has only grown in strength over the years. Barring occasional criticism, U.S. Presidents have largely overlooked allegations of rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and deepened ties in the energy and defence areas. But President Barack Obama, while steadily expanding the defence partnership between Washington and Riyadh, had tried to balance America’s interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite reservations from Saudi Arabia and Israel, his administration went ahead with the Iran nuclear deal. The logical next step of the nuclear deal should be bettering ties between Washington and Tehran. The major cause of instability in West Asia is not just Iran, as Mr. Trump mentioned in his speech, but the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. If Mr. Trump wants to be peacemaker and make West Asia a more secure place, he has to reach out to both sides and appeal to them to dial down the tensions that have already spilled into Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Instead, he appears to have taken sides. The Saudi petrodollar muscle is hard to resist for an American President desperate to create more jobs at home. But merely supplying weapons to Riyadh and its allies will not bring peace to West Asia, or help defeat terrorism.

1) Deployed

Meaning: Bring into effective action.

Example: Small states can often deploy resources more freely.

Synonyms: Utilize, Use

Antonyms: Hide, Withhold

2) Reliant

Meaning: Dependent on someone or something.

Example: The Company is heavily reliant on the baby market.

Synonyms: Relying

3) Tampering

Meaning: The illegal act of touching or making changes to something when you should not.

Example: Someone tampered with the brakes of my car.

Synonyms: Interfere, Meddle

4) Embedded

Meaning: Design and build (a microprocessor) as an integral part of a system or device.

Example: It eliminates the need for an embedded controller on the plotter.

5) Randomised

Meaning: Make random in order or arrangement; employ random selection or sampling in (an experiment or procedure).

Example: A randomized, controlled study of 62,000 women.

Synonyms: Chance, Randomness

Antonyms: Essential, Planned

6) Fallibility

Meaning: The tendency to make mistakes or be wrong.

Example: Technology is not a cure for human fallibility.

Synonyms: Weakness, Vulnerability

Antonyms: Infallible

7) Scepticism

Meaning: Doubt as to the truth of something; The theory that certain knowledge is impossible.

Example: These claims were treated with scepticism.

Synonyms: Doubt, Apprehension

Antonyms: Belief, Faith

8) Robustness

Meaning: The quality or condition of being strong and in good condition; The ability to withstand or overcome adverse conditions or rigorous testing.

Example: The overall robustness of national and international financial systems.

9) Assailed

Meaning: Make a concerted or violent attack on; criticize strongly.

Example: The Scots army assailed Edward’s army from the rear.

Synonyms: Attack, Trouble, Criticize

Antonyms: Acclaim, Defend

10) Interventions

Meaning: The act or fact of becoming involved intentionally in a difficult situation.

Example: The intervention by UN troops prevented fighting from breaking out.

Synonyms: Involvement, Intercession

11) Allegations

Meaning: A claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof.

Example: He made allegations of corruption against the administration.

Synonyms: Claim, Assertion

Antonyms: Exculpation

12) Instability

Meaning: The state of being unstable; lack of stability.

Example: Political and economic instability.

Synonyms: Unreliability, Uncertainty

Antonyms: Stability, Soundness

13) Spilled

Meaning: To (cause to) flow, move, fall, or spread over the edge or outside the limits of something.

Example: You’ve spilled something down your tie.

Synonyms: Disseminate, Spread

Antonyms: Conceal, Collect

14) Desperate

Meaning: Having a great need or desire for something.

Example: I am desperate for a chocolate.

Synonyms: In great need of, Longing

Antonyms: Hating

15) Petrodollar

Meaning: A unit of money earned by countries that produce petroleum for sale to other countries.

Example: Petrodollars have maintained Kuwait’s wealth.