Talks by Sri Hari K Prasad in USA, the Technologist who proved the Tamperability of EVMs; Pioneer Award Winner in USA

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.  ~Mark Twain

Hari K Prasad

            Hari Prasad is one of a kind hero who is passionately interested in bringing transparency, verifiability and accountability in the voting proves in India.  Election results in 2009, ground realities, pre-election results, complaints from voters, and few opposition leaders statements raised few eyebrows to prompt Hari Prasad to look into the security and integrity of the Electronic Voting Machines. Having a background in the security systems in the computer technology, he realized that there is a potential to tamper the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) that may compromise the election results. If one has to protect democracy where every body’s vote is counted, the officials at the helm have to make sure that there is a method in place to recount the votes so that suspicion of tampering with the EVMs is eliminated. Further more efforts have to be made that the EVMs are designed in such a way that they cannot be hacked to change the voting count.

            In May 2010 Prasad had appeared on a TV channel in Hyderabad and demonstrated how an EVM could be tampered with. In his demonstration, Prasad claimed a small component (chip) could be replaced with a lookalike and instructed to silently steal a percentage of votes in favor of a chosen candidate. In his interview, he alleged the machine could be rigged up to enable a device, such as a mobile phone, to tamper with the machine and track it. Prasad claimed a pocket-sized device could be used to change votes stored in EVMs between the elections and counting of votes.

Hari Prasad Arrested

The Police arrested Hari K Prasad, the technical coordinator of VeTA (Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections) on the allegation that he stole an EVM from Mumbai. According to the police, the EVM was stolen from godown number 21 in Old Customs House in south Mumbai in April, following which a police complaint was registered. The question being asked is whether an attempt by Hari Prasad to play the role of a whistle blower proving that EVMs can be tampered can be termed as theft.

Denying that he had stolen the EVM, Hari Prasad said, "Someone came to me and asked me to show how an EVM could be tampered with." He said he handed back the machine to that person within 3-4 hours after showing him how to tamper with it. This was filmed and telecast on a private news channel, he added. "We deliberately displayed the EVM number on the television in order to show that the original machine was tampered with. Until that time, ECI had been claiming that their EVMs were in safe custody," he said.

Satya Dosapati

Satya Dosapati who is equally passionate to protect the democratic principles in India started an organization entitled “Save Indian Democracy” (SID) in USA.  Satya has been working with Hari Prasad, has reacted sharply to the sudden turn of events. Had this happened in the US, Hari Prasad would have been a hero since they would have accepted that he was only trying to fix a flaw in the system, says Satya Dosapati a key activist with Save India Democracy. In this interview, Dosapati speaks about Hari Prasad's arrest and the need to replace the EVM technology since it will only lead to more rigged elections (please visit his website for complete details: http://saveindiandemocracy.wordpress.com/)

            In Feb 2010, Save Indian Democracy based in US took the best international experts Dr. Alex Halderman from US (Michigan University Computer Security research professor who hacked US EVMs and did work for CA state on US EVMs), Rop Gongrijjp from Netherlands (who was instrumental in banning EVMs in Netherlands after 2 decades of use) and Dr. Till Jaeger from Germany (attorney who argued the German Supreme Court case that banned EVMs in Germany) to India and held different conferences and addressed media.

            Save Indian Democracy headed by Satya Dosapati consults with team of professionals on a regular basis across the World.  He work closely with VeTA (Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections whose members include Hari Prasad of Net India who recently went on Indian TV showing tamperability of EVMs, GVL Narasimha Rao, a psychologist who wrote the book on EVM  “Democracy at Risk,” VV Rao of NGO Jana Chaitanya Vaidika who filed lawsuit in Supreme Court, Omesh Saigal IIT Delhi alumnus and retired IAS official who challenged ECI about vulnerability of EVMs, Satinath Chaudhary who filed lawsuit with Supreme Court,  Mr. Sanjay Parikh, Supreme Court attorney and several others such as Rahul Mehta who showed ways that elections can be manipulated and Ajay Jagga an attorney very active on raising EVM issues.  There are several other activists such as Hanuman Chaudhary, Sameer Jalnapurkar, Jagadish Setty, Kirit Somaiya and others who are working to raise the consciousness of the country on the danger of using stand-alone EVM machines, which many countries are discarding.  Our work complements the work of those like Dr. Subramanian Swamy who is pursuing this issue legally.

NRIs have the rare opportunity to strengthen and protect DEMOCRACY in INDIA

            We request all NRIs to look into implications of the flawed EVMs and how they can be hacked to change the count. We all need to support the movement to ban the existing EVMs and replace with verifiable EVMs with paper trail so that the integrity of the democracy is maintained. The famous author Mark Twain describes India as 'the cradle of the human race' and 'birthplace of human speech.'  William Durant declares 'India was the motherland of our race' and 'Sanskrit the mother of European Languages.' Voltaire and Schlegel are convinced that everything has come down to us from the river Ganges. In fact Max Muller declares that 'the Vedas are the oldest book in existence and carries us back to times of which we have no records anywhere.' All these achievements are due to the freedom and independence enjoyed by the great Rishis and our forefathers. Irrespective of party affiliation, every individual’s vote should be counted.

            There is indeed a close connection between religious beliefs of a people and their system of government. According to Madan Lal “Absolutist religions give rise to absolutist regimes and pluralistic religions give rise to pluralistic regimes.”  

             Realizing the gravity of the consequences, most of the parties met with the Election Commission of India in October 2010.  Most parties seemed to favor the creation of a ‘paper trail’ in addition to the EVM system. They felt this would inspire more confidence in voters. In fact, both winners and losers should have confidence in the election process.

Hari is Honored with prestigious PIONEER Award

            On October 19, 2010, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced four winners of its 2010 Pioneer Awards: one of them is e-voting researcher Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru, who was recently released on bail after being imprisoned for his security work in India.

“Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru is a security researcher in India who recently revealed security flaws in India's paperless electronic voting machines. He has endured jail time, repeated interrogations, and ongoing political harassment to protect an anonymous source that enabled him to conduct the first independent security review of India's electronic voting system. Prasad spent a year trying to convince election officials to complete such a review, but they insisted that the government-made machines were "perfect" and "tamperproof." Instead of blindly accepting the government's claims, Prasad's international team discovered serious flaws that could alter national election results. Months of hot debate have produced a growing consensus that India's electronic voting machines should be scrapped, and Prasad hopes to help his country build a transparent and verifiable voting system.”

            The award ceremony will be held at 7:30 p.m., November 8, at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Author, blogger, and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow will host. A VIP event with Cory and the Pioneer winners -- as well as EFF founders, board members, and other luminaries -- will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Hari's US tour details – Please attend his lectures

Save Indian Democracy (SID) and Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) invite you to attend the lectures in the following centers. Please encourage all your friends and relatives to attend.  The Venues for the lectures are being selected as you read this email. We will notify them soon.

            Let us stand up for dharma and freedom, let us save Indian Democracy.

                                                        

  • Oct 28th (Thu)                      Princeton, NJ: lecture at 4pm, Dr. Alex Halderman (609-558-2312) -- Done with good participation           
  • Oct 30th (Sat)                       Edison, NJ; Community Program; Contact: Satya Dosapati (732-939-2060), Gunjan Mishra (732-200-5839), Ramesh Yalamanchili (732-423-8291)            
  • Nov 3rd (Wed)                      Bay Area, CA  Google Lecture, Google headquarters; Dr. Alex Halderman (609-558-2312)              
  • Nov 4th (Thu)                        Bay Area, CA  U.C. Berkeley Guest Lecture ;Dr. Alex Halderman (609-558-2312) UC Berkeley                         
  • Nov 8th (Mon)                      San Francisco, CA; Receive PIONEER award conferred by EFF (Dr. Alex  Halderman (609-558-2312); Mr. Jim Tyre; 111 Minna Gallery, 111  Minna  Street, San Francisco, CA                         
  • Nov 12th (Fri)                        Boston  MIT Event; Dr. Alex Halderman (609-558-2312)                                                                  
  • Nov 14th (Sun)                      Atlanta, GA Atlanta; EventVinay Boppana (248-842-6964),  Pavan Neti   (630-338-9364) Amitabh Sharma (248-434-7480), Dhiru Shaw (770-664-8779), Subhash Razdaan (770-333-9781)                                                                
  • Nov 15th (Mon)                      Atlanta, GA; Meet Jimmy Carter Center; Dr. Dill, Satya Dosapati (732-939-2060)                                                                                                        
  • Nov 17th (Wed)                      Ann Arbor, MI; University of Michigan lecture,  Dr. Alex Halderman (609-558-2312) University of Michigan                         
  • Nov 19th (Fri)                        Detroit, MI  Community Event at Detroit; Prasad  & Vinay                           
  • Nov 20th (Sat)                        Chicago, IL; Community Event at Chicago; Prasad Yalamanchili 630-418-1122), Madhu Patel  (847-699-8800), Amarji (847-226-4929)           
  • Nov 21st (Sun)                        Dallas, TX Community Event at Dallas; Venue to be decided, contact: V. V. Prakasa Rao (601-918-7111); Ram Yalamanchili (214-663-6363);  Rajesh Veerapaneni (773-704-0405); Krishna Athota (214-912-3724);  Gopal (214-868-7538); Kalyan Viswanath (614-668-1668);

For further details, please visit: 

http://saveindiandemocracy.wordpress.com/

For additional Information, Contact:

Satya Dosapati (732-939-2060), V. V. Prakasa Rao, PhD, 601-918-7111 (cell), 601-856-4783 (home); Prasad Yalamanchi (630-832-2665; 630-359-5041), Vinay 248-842-6964: Srinivas  Murthy  212-538-8716: Dr. K. R. Venkatramaiah (Canada) 416-925-8167. Nemana Satya 732-762-7104, Sekhar Reddy 954-895-1947, Tulasichand Tummala  408-786-8357,  Raju Polavaram 919-959-6141; Pavan Neti 630-338-9364.  

 

  http://saveindiandemocracy.wordpress.com/journey/



The Journey


Though India started to use EVMs as far backs as 1990′s, it is not until 2004 when it went full in using EVM in its elections.  When 2009 elections are announced, many people independently were surprised with the results.  Various political parties including the ruling party have expressed the manipulation of the EVM machines in some part of the country or other.  What caught attention of  few activists are:

1) A  presentation that was provided by an activist in India about how EVMs are rejected all around the world from Germany, US, Netherlands, Italy,  Ireland etc.   No matter which country it is, the concerns were same, transparency and verifiability of election process.   No matter how sophisticated an EVM is built, it is tamperable.  No matter how solid are procedures to secure them, the biggest risk is insider tampering itself.   All western democratic countries recognized that there is great risk in the process of converting voter choice to bits and bytes which is a process that is not transparent to a common voter and stand alone EVMs lack core requirement of verifiability making them amenable to large scale manipulation.

The result is German Supreme court judges banned them in one sitting on petition by Dr. Ulrich Wiesner and argued by Supreme Court Attorney Dr. Till Jaeger,  Netherlands which used them at every level in the country for 20 years banned it completely after demonstration by Rop Gongrijjp,   US with decentralized system has banned stand alone EVM in about 65% of the locations by a movement started by Dr. David Dill from Stanford as well as  several European countries shelved the prototypes and initial efforts completely.  UK from which India derived its system did not even try that route, they stayed with paper ballot!   While India’s elections were plagued with booth capturing etc, the EVM provided a possible mechanism for wholesale manipulation.  In a corrupt Indian environment where the level of corruption matches the war torn African country Rwanda  (per Transparency International) this seemed to be the worst nightmare.

2) The exact prediction of election results both in center and state in state of Andhra Pradesh much before election commission announced the results.  Seehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cILJy622wk .

3) The various court cases filed across the country both in High court and Supreme Court and report of several discrepancies from around the India, some of which documented at https://docs.google.com/View?id=dgzv3n88_0d94qbkd4#_Toc234896500

4) Challenge made by retired and respected bureaucrat Omesh Saigal to Election Commission as well as Dr. Subramanian Swamy in High Court.

5) That many of the sub contractors used for preparing EVMs for elections are hardly scrutinized.   It only requires few EVMs in select constituencies to tamper many number of ways to favor one candidate versus another.  For years together between elections, the EVMs sit in state bureacrats godowns without any supervision!!

6) In addition, it was also shown by Mr. GVL Narasimha Rao, a psephologist in his book, ‘Democracy at risk, Can we trust EVMs‘,  showed the complete unpredictability of 2004 and 2009 elections in contrast to remarkable predictability prior to 2004.  (Note that this data is not to point fingers at any political party, but to show the unpredictability.  In fact, all parties including ruling party have lodged complaints in our area or another).

This started a journey of activists independently in US and India working to expose the serious concerns of EVMs,  talking to experts and talking to political parties.  In India, activists formed an organization named Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections (VeTA) (http://IndianEVM.com) such as VV Rao,  technologist Hari Prasad,  psephologist GVL Narasimha Rao.   Independently NRI’s formed an Organization under the name Save Indian Democracy (http://SaveIndianDemocracy.org ) by Satya Dosapati,  Prasad Yalamanchi, Ramesh Yalamanchi, Vinay Kumar and others.

V.V. Rao from VeTA filed lawsuit in Supreme Court about usage of EVMs and Supreme Court opined that Election Commission of India (ECI) is an independent body and directed them to first go to  Election Commission of India (ECI) to present the grievance and come back to the court if the ECI did not address the grievance satisfactorily.  Hari Prasad went a step forward and build prototype of Indian EVM based on published specifications and demonstrated how they can be easily manipulated.  Hari started to get requests as far as North East for a price to fix the elections (which Hari refused to entertain).

Pursuant to that around Sept 2009 ECI invited VeTA along with several activists as well as Indian EVM vendors ECIL and BEL for a meeting.   At the meeting, ECI asked VeTA technologist Hari Prasad from Net India from Hyderabad to prove tamperability with restriction imposed on him and his associates that the EVM’s cannot be opened but should demonstrate tamperability by having same access as a voter.   This is bizarre since those who tamper EVM are not going to abide by such restrictions.  After that,  Mr. Navin Chawla, the Chief Election Commissioner at the time,  went around the country saying that no one could prove India’s EVMs tamperable.

In US, activists started looking at the development of EVM in the West researching the material, taking guidance of those like Dr. David Dill, reaching out to experts internationally from Germany to US.   After Dr. Swamy announced his desire to hold a conference on EVMs in Chennai in Feb 2010 (which was attended by ex Election Commissioner Mr. Gopalswami)   US activists invited various  international experts.  This was accepted by Dr. Alex Halderman (who hacked EVM in US and employed by CA State to study EVMs vulnerability) from US,  Rop Gongrijjp from Netherlands (who was instrumental in banning EVMs in Netherlands after 20 years!) and Dr. Till Jaeger from Germany (who argued in German Supreme Court that effectively banned EVMs in Germany).  Dr. David Dill provided a Video statement for the Conference and a letter to ECI inviting them to Stanford.  Also, video statements from other activists such as Bev Harris (Black Box Voting) and others was taken.

The international experts and the activists held various activities in India such as Dr. Swamy Conference in Chennai,  Book Release of Mr. GVL Narasimha Rao on EVMs,  IIT Chennai Conference and Press meet at Delhi (see Conferencessection).   At that time, Hari Prasad from Net India and who is part of VeTA approached Dr. Alex and Rop to work with him to hack a real India EVMs that he was able to borrow for few days.  After intense work for about 3 days in Hyderabad along with follow up work for few weeks Hari and his associates, Dr. Alex and his students and Rop produced a highly acclaimed Scientific paper on the tamperability of Indian EVMs as well as a professional video of tampering of the EVMs showing multiple ways the EVM can be hacked.

In April 2010, 13 major political parties wrote to Election Commission of India (ECI) to call for an All Party meeting.  In  June 2010, Hari and other activists went on  TV9 channel (parts 123)in Andhra Pradesh which was participated by all leading political parties of the state. The awareness generated by the exposure caused local political party, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) demanding ECI to go back to paper ballots in state bye elections.   When ECI refused, they fielded 64+ candidates to force ECI to go back to paper ballot (Indian EVM can handled 64 candidates only).   As a result, in about 50% of the constituencies of the bye elections, voting was done using paper ballot.  This whole episode after the exposure of EVM by Hari and activists seemed to peeve the ECI and Indian Government.

Soon after the elections,    Dr. Quraishi took over as the new Chief Election Commissioner and ECI served notice to Hari for stealing a EVM (note that it was loaned to Hari for few days and was returned).    At the same time, at US Usenix Conference held in Washington DC there was a panel discussion on Indian EVMs based on the paper on EVM and it was attended by Alex Halderman,  GVL Narasimha Rao and Deputy Election Commissioner of India  Mr. Alok Shukla.  ECI has assured that they will look into the matter of the notice to Hari.   Several of the top security researchers at the Usenix conference wrote a letteraddressed to Election Commissioner Dr. Quraishi that Indian EVMs are vulnerable to wide range of attacks and ECI should explore forms of voting that provide adequate security, verifiability and transparency.

Notwithstanding the assurances, in the morning of Aug 21st at 5AM, several senior police officers visited Hari’s home and took custody of him and took him on a journey of 14 hours to Mumbai.  He was put in Police custody for 8 days, put him sometimes in dark cell and at times in a prison cell with  hard core criminals.  At the end of the 8 days, on Aug 28th, Hari was released on bail with Judge commenting his effort as service to the country and stating that theft case is applicable only if there is a dishonest intention.   Though the court allowed police for any further questioning once a week for four weeks, police has been practically forcing him to stay in Mumbai.  Meanwhile they have raided his company employee’s home and started questioning his associates.  The net result is his company lost key 8 employees and incurring large expense to him  and extensive stress to his wife and two young children.  Police continued to seek cancellation of Hari’s bail and recently hired an senior counsel (believed to charge 1 lakh indian rupees per day as per some sources) to fight the case against Hari.

Hari’s arrest day statement (from Alex blog):

Meanwhile, the prestigious ACM Computer and Communications security Conference at Chicago Oct 4-8th,  selected the technical paper as Number One.   Hari was expected to participate but could not due to various reasons.

While hackers and researchers around the world are respected for their work, India chose to harass them.   The ECI and India Government that cared not to investigate the many EVM fixers who approached Hari Prasad for a price started a campaign of vendetta on Hari Prasad who simply showed to the country how easy an EVM can be manipulated using a borrowed EVM. Dr. Alex himself hacked EVMs in US and he was one of those appointed by State of California Secretary General to study the EVMs used in California!!   Rop Gongrijjp demonstration of EVM hacking in Netherlands media resulted in total ban on EVMs there and he is greatly respected by all.  Dr. David Dill was awarded as pioneer in election reform in US and provided input to Senate committee.  Rop Gongrijjp is his blog aptly said, in India one will be punished for informing the king that he has no clothes.

On Oct 19th 2010, prestigious Electronic Frontier Foundation has awarded Hari Prasad as Pioneer of the year award. In giving this award EFF states (http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer) that “Hari Prasad spent a year trying to convince election officials to complete a review of India’s EVMs, but the Election Commission of India kept insisting that the government made machines were “perfect” and “tamperproof”.  Instead of blindly accepting the governments claims,  Hari Prasad’s international team discovered serious flaws that could alter election results.  Hari Prasad has endured jail time, repeated interrogations, and ongoing political harassment to protect an anonymous source that enabled him to conduct first independent security review of India’s electronic voting system.  James Tyre, member of EFF Judging Panel and who nominated Hari Prasad for the award mentioned to Satya Dosapati of Save Indian Democracy that Hari was chosen not only for his excellent work with the international team, but also for his remarkable withholding of his anonymous source in spite of continuous harassment.

Hari is planning to travel to US (Government permitting) to receive the prestigious award on Nov 8th at EFF at San Francisco (See http://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer for more details).  Activities are planned in several cities in USA where he will be visiting universities such as Princeton,  Stanford,  MIT,  Google Headquarters as well community events.   The Conferences section at  http://saveindiandemocracy.wordpress.com/conferences will be updated with further details.

SAMPLE MEDIA COVERAGE (NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL) ON HARI’S ARREST AND INDIA’S EVM’S (CLICK THE IMAGE FOR ARTICLE)

(NOTE: All media coverage available at http://IndianEVM.com/news.php)