U-M professor threatened with deportation by Indian officials, kept from presenting controversial study
University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman received a surprising welcome after he arrived in India for a conference earlier this month and was threatened with deportation by Indian officials without explanation, according to a report in The Indian Express.
Halderman, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, was a part of a team of researchers who co-authored a study exposing security flaws in Electronic Voting Machines used in Indian elections. The study irked Indian officials, who arrested Hari Prasad, an Indian member of the research team, for not providing the name of the anonymous source that provided the EVM researchers worked on.
According to The Indian Express, an English-language newspaper in New Delhi, Halderman was visiting the country to attend a technical conference.
Technology Review magazine, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported that Halderman and Dutch co-author Rop Gonggrijp refused to leave the country until a written explanation was given.
Halderman could not be reached by AnnArbor.com for comment today.
“Alex and Rop were allowed to enter India, but only on the condition that they did so as ‘tourists,’” wrote Scott Aaronson, an assistant professor at MIT who authored the report. “In particular, they were banned from presenting their research on electronic voting machines, and the relevant conference session was canceled.”
Halderman and his students at U-M made headlines in October when they hacked into the Washington, D.C. prototype Internet voting system, causing the website to play The Victors and cast votes for “evil science fiction robots.” They also gained access to video cameras at a board of elections data center and changed the password, locking out election officials.
More than 400 million Indian voters use EVMs, making them the most widely used voting system on the planet, according to Technology Review.
The Indian Express reported Indian authorities detained Halderman for 15 hours at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. He told the Express he did not attend the conference as scheduled to due explicit instructions from Indian officials.
“It’s a shame for Indian democracy because there would have been a lot of people attending that paper presentation who could have worked to make India’s voting system more secure,” Halderman told the Express.