The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is attempting to develop unhackable electronic voting machines.

In an effort to secure U.S. elections against manipulated outcomes, researchers at DARPA along with Oregon tech-firm Galois have been working on a system that will be impervious to hacking. Instead of the approach taken by the majority of cybersecurity providers to thwart hacking attempts with software patches, DARPA is instead going to focus on the voting machine’s hardware.

“In general, software has been the way people try to solve the problems because software is adaptable,” said Linton Salmon, program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office who is overseeing the project. Some hardware security solutions already exist, he said, "but they don’t go far enough and … require too much power and performance...We want to fix this in hardware, and then no matter what [vulnerabilities] you have in software, [attackers] would not be able to [exploit] them.”

The system will be developed on secure open-source hardware based on secure designs created by DARPA, according to reports, and will run in fully open-source software.

By publishing the solution, experts and external researchers and developers will be invited to “crowdsource” the system, testing it for potential bugs, errors and vulnerabilities. The goal, according to DARPA is not to monetize the solution, but to fortify the security of existing voting machines.

“We will not have a voting system that we can deploy. That’s not what we do,” said Salmon. “We will show a methodology that could be used by others to build a voting system that is completely secure.”

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