Online voting still isn’t a thing in most of the world due to concerns about security, accountability, privacy, and voter verification. But the Swiss government has an interesting plan in mind to help improve its e-voting system: Put out bounties for any white hat hackers who can find bugs during a dummy election later this month.
The Swiss Post will allow anyone who registers for the Public Intrusion Test (PIT) to legally attack its e-voting system, including non-citizens. Hackers are allowed to publish their findings, so long as they respect conditions outlined in the trial’s code of conduct. The trial will last from February 25 to March 24, which is same amount of time for a regular Swiss federal vote.
A total of 150,000 CHF, or about $150,000, will be up for grabs, while individual bounties will range from 30,000 to 50,000 CHF (roughly $30,000 to $50,000) for anyone who discovers “undetectable vote manipulation.” As the Verge reports, that number falls to 20,000 CHF ($20,000) for voting manipulations that could be detected by an auditor. Server-side privacy violations will net a 10,000 CHF bounty ($10,000), while vote corruption—like destroyed electronic ballot boxes—will result in a 5,000 CHF ($5,000) bounty. On the lower end, instances of server intrusion will be rewarded 1,000 CHF ($1,000), and participants can get 100 CHF ($100) for pointing out any code that goes against best security practices.
The trial comes as Switzerland aims to expand online voting in October of this year. Current Swiss law says that e-votes are capped at a maximum of 10 percent for referendums, and 30 percent for constitutional amendments. The goal is to raise that to two thirds of the 26 cantons that make up the Swiss Confederation.
Switzerland isn’t the only country to experiment with online voting. Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, and Norway have all tried internet voting in some form or another. In particular, 30 percent of voters cast ballots digitally in Estonia according to the BBC, thanks in large part to the country’s adoption of digital national ID cards. And in the U.S., e-voting is largely restricted to citizens living abroad or military personnel, and rules vary from state to state.