Dutch ballots hand-counted to hamper hacking

The general election takes place next month

Dutch ballots hand-counted to hamper hacking

Image: Michael Probst AP/Press Association Images

Dutch authorities will be counting all votes cast in next month's general election by hand in an attempt to thwart hackers.

A senior minister said they are abandoning "vulnerable" computer software in an effort to combat against cyber attacks, saying the software "had raised questions about whether the upcoming elections could be manipulated".

"I cannot rule out that state actors may try to benefit from influencing political decisions and public opinion in the Netherlands," interior minister Ronald Plasterk said in a letter to parliament on Wednesday.

He insisted in a letter to MPs that “no shadow of a doubt should hang over the results” of the parliamentary polls, which some analysts predict could result in a five-party coalition.

Plasterk told broadcaster RTL that possible external actors included Russia. “Now there are indications that Russians could be interested, for the following elections we must fall back on good old pen and paper,” he said.

The Netherlands kicks off a year of crucial elections in Europe next month which will be closely watched amid the rise of far-right and populist parties on the continent.

Dutch officials are already on alert for signs of possible cyber hacking following allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia may have meddled in November’s US presidential polls to help secure Donald Trump’s victory.

The far-right anti-Islam MP, Geert Wilders, and his Freedom Party (PVV) have been leading the opinion polls for months, leaving prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal party (VVD) trailing in second place.

How secure is e-voting?

Speaking on High Noon, computer consultant and independent tallysman Joe McCarthy said the same machines, which were scrapped in Ireland in 2004, are "entirely open to hacking".

"The machines could be accessed from outside on the road", he said. "You could see what someone was voting on the panel."

Because of this, Mr McCarthy said they could not be sure that the previous elections held over 20 years were not interfered with.

"Phenomenal things happen when elections take place, and if you haveto be on the watch out for all sorts of skullduggery. Let people see what's happening - let them see their votes in a box."