Peter Ryan

Democracy under threat

Can we trust the news, the media or even the voting systems? Many problems arise from insecurities in digital technologies, says Peter Ryan – keynote speaker at the initiative seminar.


Peter Ryan, Professor of Applied Security at the University of Luxembourg, will give a presentation titled Securing the Foundations of Democracy. He points out that our democracy is under threat.

“This has been high-lighted by the recent US presidential election which was fraught with suspicions of hacking of voting technologies, the campaign processes, media bias and fake news, information bubbles in social media etc.  Many of these problems arise from insecurities in digital technologies.”

The partial recounts conducted, against fierce legal opposition, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin did not produce evidence of vote manipulation, but they did serve to expose the serious vulnerabilities in many US voting technologies, in particular the pure electronic, paperless (DRE) devices.

In his talk Peter Ryan will focus on the technologies surrounding the conduct of elections.

“A small but important aliment in the problem, but one in which significant progress has been made in recent years.  I argue that elections should be "evidence based", that is to say they should be conducted in such a way as to produce sufficient evidence to convince even sceptics, e.g. the losers, that the announced result is a true reflection of the legitimately cast votes. But we must of course balance such transparency against requirements of ballot privacy and coercion resistance. I will overview recent advances in “end-to-end verifiable” schemes and risk-limiting audits.”

Peter Ryan has over 20 years of experience in cryptography, information assurance and formal verification. He pioneered the application of process algebras to modelling and analysis of secure systems.

Ryan has published extensively on cryptography, cryptographic protocols, mathematical models of computer security and, most recently, high assurance voting systems. He is the creator of Prêt à Voter, Pretty Good Democracy (with Vanessa Teague) and OpenVote (with Feng Hoa) and Selene (with P Roenne and V Iovino) verifiable voting schemes. With Feng Hao he proposed the Password Authenticated Key Establishment Protocol J-PAKE.

Read more about the initiative seminar, and register today >>

Published: Mon 23 Jan 2017.