HYDERABAD: When Syed Shuja, a hacker and self-proclaimed cybersecurity expert from the city, claimed that electronic voting machines (EVMs) had been hacked using low-frequency radio signals in the 2014 general elections to benefit the BJP, the nation went into a tizzy. Several experts in the country, however, were quick to debunk Shuja’s claim terming it “sci-fi without scientific basis” though admitting that the voting machines were indeed hackable.
Shuja, currently in the US, made the wild allegations while addressing via Skype a press conference in London organised by the European chapter of the Indian Journalists’ Association. “He is claiming of hacking a digital microcontroller with an analog radio wave. That’s not the way electronic circuits work,” independent security researcher Srinivas Kodali told Express.
EVMs are digitally circuited — one has to write a program to switch a machine on or off. Like for instance, switching on an AC with a remote. However, radios are analog systems. “For a radio wave to enter an EVM machine and manipulate programming, the analog signal has to change into digital output. That is not possible unless you have an analog-to-digital converter. If there was one, the ECI would have come to know,” he said.
Secondly, EVMs are activated using batteries. To receive and transmit radio signals, an EVM will need constant power supply. “The power sourced from the battery is not sufficient for transmission or analysis.”
Besides, low frequency signals are used only by submarines and one will need a very long antenna to catch the signals.”
From a logistical point of view too, it is near impossible to tamper with EVMs in the method Shuja claims has been done as entries on each EVM are different. “It would be very hard to send it to so many different EVMs — because each has its own different parameters. If every EVM received the same radio signal, then all EVMs would show the same set of results,” he explained.
Lastly, radio signals are heavily monitored and used by the armed forces. “Any random radio signal shooting across the country will be intercepted by the armed forces or the regulatory agency monitoring it. It (hacking of EVMs using radio signal) can’t be done,” another EVM expert Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru said, calling Shuja’s argument illogical.
However, the two admitted that EVMs were hackable. “No device is hack-proof. The point is that the way EVM machines work is not transparent. Allegations arise as people do not how the machines work. The ECI should make the workings of EVMs more transparent,” Kodali said.
Kishan Reddy dismisses Shuja’s claims
Former BJP MLA G Kishan Reddy on Tuesday refuted the allegations levelled against him by self-proclaimed cyber expert Syed Shuja. Reddy denied killing any person as alleged by Shuja. “These are baseless and contrived lies. I want to ask Congress leader Kapil Sibal to show who my brother-in-law is, or the guest house where the killings of eleven took place,” he said. Kishan Reddy also said: “The party (BJP) is going to consider filing defamation case against Kapil Sibal,” Reddy said.
‘It has become habit for Cong to blame EVMs’
TRS MP B Vinod Kumar on Tuesday dismissed as baseless the claims that the EVMs could be tampered. Speaking to the media here, the TRS parliamentarian said that ‘it had become a habit for the Congress to say that EVMs were tampered if they lose an election and keep quiet when they win one’.
“In Telangana Assembly elections, the Congress leaders blamed the EVMs for their defeat, but they would not say the same thing about elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where the grand old party won,” he said.
He said that his party had no doubts about the efficacy of the EVMs.