eSI Public Lecture: "Trust and Security in Voting Systems" by Peter Ryan

In Association with eSI Thematic Programme: Trust and Security in Virtual Communities

12 June, 2008 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM

e-Science Institute, 15 South College Street, Edinburgh

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Any slides or other material generated as a result of this event can be found at: www.nesc.ac.uk/action/esi/contribution.cfm?Title=896

Professor Peter Y A Ryan
Department of Computing Science
University of Newcastle

The e-Science Institute is delighted to host a public lecture by Professor Peter Y A Ryan. The public lecture is open to all interested parties in academia and industry. There is no need to register for this event and those attending the lecture are invited to join us for coffee and cakes at 17:00.

Professor Peter Y A Ryan


Voting systems pose a particular challenge in that they are required to provide two conflicting requirements:

  • Demonstrable accuracy of the count
  • Secrecy of individual ballots

Ideally we would like to achieve this with minimal dependence on officials, software, hardware etc. In this talk I will describe the challenge of designing high-assurance voting systems. In particular I will describe the notion of voter-verifiablity: providing the voters with the means to confirm that their vote is accurately counted without undermining ballot secrecy and how this is achieved in the Prêt à Voter scheme.

Voting systems illustrate particularly cleary the complexities and paradoxes of the notion of trust: on the one hand we seek to minimise the need for trust, in the sense of dependence, on the other we seek to maximise trust in the sense of confidence. Voting systems need to be trustworthy and trusted. I will discuss how systems like Prêt à Voter seek to balance these requirements.


Peter Ryan is a Professor of Computing Science at the University of Newcastle. He has over 20 years of experience in information assurance and formal verification. He pioneered the application of process algebras to modelling and analysis of secure systems and initiated and led the project that developed the process algabra and model-checking approach to the analysis of security protocols. He has published extensively on cryptography, cryptographic protocols, security policies, mathematical models of computer security and, most recently, high assurance voting systems. He is the creator of the Prêt à Voter approach to verifiable voting. Prior to joining the University of Newcastle in 2002, he worked at GCHQ, CESG, the Defence Research Agency, Stanford Research Institute, Cambridge and the Software Engineering Institute, CMU Pittsburgh. He holds a PhD in mathematical physics from the University of London.


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