Major Universities Win Blockchain Voting Systems Competition

Lately, the fintech industry isn’t the only sector that’s seeing blockchain innovation. Major universities have started to adopt the technology, creating classes, contests and more, to explore the implications and boundaries of the new technology.

As our predecessors before have paved the way and charted out territory for the younger generations, the fact that universities are teaching and exploring blockchain tech is proof that the blockchain is seeing progressive movement into the future. The Kaspersky Lab Cybersecurity Case Study Competition hosted by The Economist’s “Which MBA?” was a challenge to create a blockchain technology solution for securing digital voting systems. 19 teams from universities across the U.S. and the U.K. entered with videos and written essays that detailed their proposals on blockchain-compliant systems that address voter privacy, security challenges, voter fraud and more.

Today, Kaspersky Lab announced the winning college teams:

  • New York University: In first place, and recipient of the $10,000 grand prize, was New York University. The university’s submission proposed the usage of a “permissioned blockchain” configuration, in which a central authority admits voting machines to the network prior to the start of the election, followed by voting machines acting autonomously to build a public, distributed ledger of votes. In addition to addressing threats to the integrity of the system, NYU’s plan allows voters to tell if their individual vote was counted.
  • University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center: Second place and $5,000 was awarded to the University Of Maryland, College Park’s Maryland Cybersecurity Center, which proposed a solution rooted in global public keys that encrypt ballots and provide voter receipts using randomly generated numbers. The university’s proposal also features cryptographic tree data structures that allow citizens to check if their vote was counted.
  • Newcastle University: Winner of $3,000 and third place was Newcastle University, which proposed a solution rooted in three protocols: the Open Vote Network, DRE-i and DRE-ip.

Kaspersky Lab, a global cyber security company founded in 1997, provided experts to serve as the judging panel for the competition. Eugene Kaspersky, Chairman, and CEO of Kaspersky Lab stated:

“The competition was very interesting and I was very impressed with the submissions. The challenges of cybersecurity mean the next generation of experts face a changing frontier – there will be plenty of things to work on and securing digital voting systems for national elections is just one example. If cybercriminals exploited one small vulnerability, it could potentially change the course of a nation’s history, and these young scholars are bringing us one step closer to making secure digital voting a reality.”

U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered his congratulations to the New York University first place winners in the competition:

“Today, STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education is more important than ever as Americans face increased competition from abroad for the well-paying, high-skill jobs of tomorrow. America has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and it is higher education programs, like the one at NYU, that will ensure we remain there.”

U.S. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) also offered his congratulatory sentiments to the Maryland-based second place winners:

“I’m proud that the University of Maryland, College Park, has been recognized as one of the leading centers for cybersecurity research in the country. In Congress, I’ve worked closely with President Loh, state leaders and federal education and national security agencies to highlight the benefits of investing in cybersecurity research in Maryland, which boasts a top-notch education system and proximity to critical defense, intelligence, and homeland security infrastructure. As our nation faces new and challenging cyber threats to our security and to our businesses’ intellectual property, we must continue to invest resources in developing cutting-edge cyber defenses such as those being designed and tested at the University of Maryland, College Park, in Maryland’s Fifth District.”

With the recent heavily theorized and debated U.S. Presidential election, voter fraud has been a concern for many. If the blockchain presents the potential to abolish voter fraud or create a more transparent voting system, it’s a revolutionary technology that should be researched. Universities entering the space of blockchain and Ethereum technology could be the catalyst for a better understanding of the technology as a whole and create better marketing strategies that will break through to a mainstream audience.