West Virginia's Blockchain Voting Pilot Was Possibly Targeted by a Student Hacker

The West Virginia Secretary of State disclosed the attempted hack occurred during the 2018 election cycle.

Oct 8, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:32 a.m. UTC

UPDATE (08, October 20:00 UTC): The headline of an earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested the breach was successful. As the story itself noted, it was only attempted.

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Someone attempted to tamper with West Virginia’s blockchain-based voting pilot.

Disclosed for the first time via public address on Wednesday, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said there was an unsuccessful attempt to breach the pilot program, dubbed the "military mobile voting solution," during the 2018 election cycle.

Though specifics cannot be revealed while the incident is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Warner said “no votes were altered, impacted, viewed or in any way tampered with.”

Developed by Medici-backed blockchain startup Voatz, the mobile app maker was tapped to provide citizens and military personnel deployed overseas a secure way to vote. The app uses facial and thumbprint recognition and stores voter-verified ballot receipts on an immutable ledger.

"The system worked as designed and intended. The attempt was detected, thwarted at the gate and reported to the authorities," Voatz CEO Nimit Sawhney told CoinDesk.

To date, the startup has conducted more than 31 pilots, including an implementation in Denver, Colorado's municipal elections this past May. It completed a $7 million Series A in June.

The hackers’ IP addresses were turned over to the FBI, who will determine if crimes were committed. CNN reported Friday that the addresses may be tied to students enrolled in a University of Michigan election security course.

E-voting image via Shutterstock

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