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Peterborough municipal voting website now has security certificate

In Governance
Oct 3rd, 2018
Dylan Radcliffe

Dylan Radcliffe

Voter still leery of online voting option

by Joelle Kovach Peterborough Examiner

The city’s webpage for online voting acquired a new security feature on Wednesday morning, a day after a city voter raised concerns about security on the site.

As of Wednesday there was a new secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate on peterboroughvotes.ca

An SSL certificate is a form of online identification that ensures the site belongs to the organization it claims to belong to (in this case, the City of Peterborough). It also encrypts information that it receives online.

“I’m happy the city responded — eventually,” said Dylan Radcliffe.

On Tuesday, Radcliffe noticed someone writing on social media about the lack of SSL certificate on the city’s webpage for online voting.

The webpage is where voters can upload private information — such as scanned documents showing their full name and address — to ensure they’re on the voters’ list.

Later, citizens can register then vote online on the same page.

Radcliffe was concerned that the site was vulnerable to attack from anyone looking to harvest private information, so he alerted the city clerk’s office and started tweeting about it.

Tweets were posted in reply from the city’s account stating that personal data was perfectly secure.

Nick Powers, the manager of IT security for the city, later on Tuesday wrote a detailed statement to The Examiner to explain.

Powers wrote that the city’s election website uses the secure voterview.ca site for voter lookup information. Online voting, meanwhile, will be done through a system called Dominion Voting.

“While these services may look like they’re on peterboroughvotes.ca, they are actually on the previously mentioned secure external sites,” Powers wrote on Tuesday.

“This currently isn’t clear to the public that uses the website, so the city is taking the extra step of upgrading the security certificate relating to peterboroughvotes.ca even though no private or confidential information exists there,” he wrote.

In less than 24 hours, the SSL certificate was on the site.

Meanwhile there’s no SSL certificate on the city’s main webpage at www.city.peterborough.on.ca

In an email on Wednesday, Powers said citizens can expect safety on the site all the same because areas where you can make payments are SSL protected.

“While SSL certificates aren’t necessary in all situations, we do recognize that modern website designs are moving to SSL as a standard regardless of the content on the site,” Powers wrote on Wednesday.

Municipal websites across Ontario sometimes use SSL certificates, Powers wrote, and sometimes they don’t.

Mississauga.ca, brantford.ca, and brampton.ca do not have SSL certificates on their main pages, for example, while kitchener.ca, cityofkingston.ca and guelph.ca do have SSL certificates on their main page.

The City of Peterborough is developing a new municipal website, Powers noted, that will include “broader use of SSL certificates.”

Nonetheless, Radcliffe said Wednesday he remains leery of voting online.

“Online voting is a can of worms,” he said. “There really is no solution comparable to just casting a paper ballot.”

Still, Radcliffe knows many voters will still stick with the online voting option.

“Hopefully this makes them feel a little more secure.”

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