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How functional and secure AES is

How functional and secure AES is?

The Philippine electorate will once again go to polls and decide who will lead the nation in the next six years of their lives. This important event which will elect new president, vice president and 12 senators for national posts, and seats are also being contested for provincial, city and municipal levels, is expected to be counted unofficially in 24 hours, concluded or canvassed officially in a few days or so but authorities and observers expected it to be done in less than a week. Last presidential election, it was known three days after close of election precincts. This is especially true for nation states, not only the Philippines, that conducts their elections using automated election or computerized-and-networked voting systems.

In PH, the past automated elections were encumbered with technical issues and fraudulent results, uttered and written everywhere by many concerned and affected individuals and institutions alike.

This time, we could say, these technical issues must have been eliminated and any possibility of risks to the functionality and security of the AES must have been anticipated and contingencies have been put in place to thwart any incident towards the voting machines, servers, transmission of votes or data, governance and support, electricity, well-being of electorate, since we are still in the middle of pandemic following of basic health protocols and emergency backup systems.

In technology parlance, especially for mission critical systems, vulnerability in the entire operation is attended to immediately, either in the form of software fix or some improvise mechanisms to control such threats.

The proper functionality, and shall we say, stringent security of voting machines, processing and transmission of votes or data are paramount to successful, and as a result, an evidently clean election exercise. Without such technical considerations, thoughtful and careful examinations of mechanisms, assured by and for stakeholders, encompassing the nationwide voting system, concerns of technical issues and fraudulent election results will definitely turn up in no time. Protest of election result is excruciatingly slow, expensive if money is even relevant, and most of the time they are not resolved accordingly.

Let’s identify the basic what makes AES functional and secure. While we are not part of the organizations facilitating, running and managing the AES, we have few ideas what makes up the whole system. Functional means processing and transmission of votes have been perfected or at least the system have been finalized for election proper and that during the time which the AES is being used, there will be no need to do anything, that is to say no more system setup and correction necessary. Secure means anything related to the question of code, setup, build, network of the system have been thoroughly examined, tested and validated, based on security and data protection protocols agreed upon by involved parties, if not the requirement expressed in Philippine election-and-related laws and AES-specific rules, and only authorized personnel must have access to the system’s administrative interface for monitoring and incident response purposes, removing the ability to manipulate both the system and data. That must be the default setting. Security is also about being restrictive, and this is very helpful for a network environment like AES which is serviced and provided by different telecommunications and internet service providers that connected and linked every voting machines and servers deployed in precincts and protected facilities designated nationwide. Depending on the agreement of parties involved in AES, the network environment must have been vetted and assured for security without sacrificing the systems overall functionality, disabling unnecessary configuration, interfaces and access.

Dig a little deeper and that would let us consider some of the primary security technologies playing different roles including DMZ and if used properly it may differentiate virtually-segmented subnetworks within the whole system; firewall(s) can block, reject, drop and redirect traffic with the newer ones now capable of rendering permissions for end-users based on their given role and applications, meaning it may or may not allow effective access to an AES resource and data; access control may specifically permit and authenticate authorize credentials specific to a certain role and application as well as some functionalities that may be available in a firewall; anti-malware may be use to identify malicious data or applications which can then be quarantined for further investigation or removed immediately; network monitoring can attest network traffic authenticity and that no other devices are connected to the network unless authorized; directory services can authenticate roles and devices, facilitate cryptographic methods to encrypt and decrypt protected, in transit or at rest data. There are other security technologies specific for DNS, routing, information and events management, technical and administrative operations, surveillance camera including but not limited to artificial intelligence. There is, however, the most important element in security, the stakeholder, with the roles the entities and their staff got we can easily identify what those meant for the AES in which case their actions should be guarded and their computers connected to the system are limited with only the applications they need to monitor and for non-interfering operation. All others, must be taken out and computers with full operational capability must only be used if necessary, especially if there was a persistent security incident or threat being identified.

Don’t allow super privilege accounts and programming tools in which these must have been removed in any machines to be connected to the election system once it has been finalized for deployment, during and even after voting. Let no one know of any of these credentials except for a few authorized personnel. This is not so easy to handle if things are not systematic.

The organizations that operates the AES during this important juncture in which the electorate wants to be heard of their decision, a final and significant one in a six-year time basis, that is critical to people’s lives, must make this election as comme il faut as one of their missions, not just delivering the votes to the deserving future leader of our nation.

Absent of any contortion, the future is being determined by the people themselves, with vigilance and respect to the process and with zero tolerance to unacceptable practices, we must expect only the best.


Anonymous said…
The fast turn-out of votes was clearly due to the decisiveness in PH leadership. Perhaps courtesy to the proceeding itself, and for the people no less.

Anonymous said…
I believe when technology was designed and rigorously validated and tested to operate, and when the time comes and is working, properly, it's more convincingly that it can facilitate the job, as fast as it was to be in actual setting, without doubt of anomaly. S. Adam

Jj said…
Do you think the entire election system and its security was facing the Internet? Looks like it with this:
Anonymous said…
Seems like everywhere, not only in PH, there is always doubt, could be worst, by the losing parties. That the election was somehow manipulated. Fast or slow turnout of elections, you'd see such one-sided claims of fraud or whatever that suits them. It is fine to have doubts, but make that a sinister play, without listening and looking to the cerebral rationalization and facts, is simply a bad rejoinder. I think the voters are really being cognizant to this kind of politics, and they could see clear-as-sunlight useless plastics, copycats and pretenses.

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