Written by Piero Messina
It was like reviewing the assault on the Capitol Hall in flamenco sauce. From Washington to Brasilia the step is short. Then Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US congress building to challenge the validity of the vote that had brought Joe Biden to the White House. Last night, fans of the now ex-President Bolsonaro stormed the capital of Brazil, aiming for the Parliament building and the seat of the Supreme Court. Over 400 arrests in a country grappling with a devastating economic crisis and now divided in half.
Yesterday as today the army had to intervene to stop the protests. In fact, nothing happened that wasn’t predictable. For months, exactly since the October 30 run-off that sanctioned Lula’s victory, Brazil has been a powder keg on the verge of exploding. In the days following the voting, Bolsonaro attempted the electoral appeal card. He crashed into a wall, the judges did not take into consideration his accusations of electoral fraud.
Bolsonaro had not given explicit recognition of Lula’s victory and had not even offered his congratulations. Despite everything, however, Bolsonaro had followed the procedure of the Constitution by not opposing the transition process between his government and that of Lula.
Popular protests have set the country on fire. The first to take to the streets were the truck drivers, a union of ultras of former President Bolsonaro. The truck drivers union has organized more than two hundred checkpoints across the country.
Supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro broke into government buildings:
For Bolsonaro, those legitimate protest movements against the injustice of the electoral process were legitimate. Despite the 58 million votes obtained, Bolsonaro was defeated by a few hundred thousand votes. Under accusation for that defeat is the electronic voting system. It has been in force since 1996. It has always been considered a bug-risk software. The claims of Bolsonaro supporters cannot be dismissed as fake news. That electoral voting program has been sieved by university professors and researchers. It’s a total disaster.
According to Diego F. Aranha, of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Brasília, Brazil, Brazil’s electronic voting system has some glaring anomalies. Here are the main flaws in the system.
Inadequate protection of ballot secrecy: votes are stored out of order, but it is trivial to recover them in order only from the public data produced by a voting machine and superficial knowledge of the software source code, which is also made public to the political parties . This vulnerability fully compromises ballot secrecy when associated to a partial or complete ordered list of electors.
Inadequate use of encryption: the same encryption key is shared among all voting machines for encrypting the critical portions of their memory cards.
Obsolete cryptographic algorithms: the SHA-1 cryptographic hash function used for computing digital signatures and integrity verification is demonstrably not collision-resistant. These specific applications of the chosen hash function have been deprecated for 6 years already. A sophisticated collision in this hash function would allow an insider attacker to construct fake voting software capable of producing election results indistinguishable from the correct outcome.
Inappropriate attacker model: significant emphasis is put on the design of security features resistant only to outsider attackers, when insider threats present a much higher risk.
Faulty software development process: bad engineering practices allow the accidental or malicious insertion of software vulnerabilities, clearly attesting that the software development process is immature from a security point of view.
Insufficient integrity verification: the voting software verifies its own integrity during its initialization process, but all of the information needed to subvert this verification is contained inside the voting machines, with different attack surfaces depending on the presence of a hardware security module.
In short, on closer inspection there is enough material to allow the magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal to try to take a look at what happened. Yet it didn’t happen that way. Now Bolsonaro is in Florida. He rejects the accusations of being responsible for the protests that set fire to the Brazilian capital. But President Lula has made it known that he will use an iron fist against those who have spurred on the demonstrators. It is yet another requiem for democracy.
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