With Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the United States’ efforts to up cybersecurity has grown – this is good news, with 2018 midterm elections this week.
However, while improvements to the U.S.’s political infrastructure have been made, they haven’t been significant, and “are going to get worse before they get better,” says Vox, which spent the last six months working with over 100 people involved in U.S. elections, including the intelligence community, elections advocacy, and more.
The election officials that Vox spoke with said that U.S. elections are a huge national security target, and will continue to be for the next few decades. More specifically, Vox says that election vulnerability can be found in three main categories:
- The targeting of individual campaigns, which are susceptible to email theft and other meddling
- The hacking of our national discourse, or “information operations,” which are the propaganda efforts designed to sow discord
- The technology itself that underlies the country’s election infrastructure
News of electoral cyberattacks has been increasing, too, especially with the midterm elections taking place, Vox says. For example, “In 2018, at least a dozen races for the House and Senate, mostly Democrats, have been the public targets of malicious cyber campaigns, in a variety of attacks that suggests the breadth of the threat: Campaigns have been besieged by network penetration attempts, spearphishing campaigns, dummy websites, email hacking, and at least one near-miss attempt to rob a Senate campaign of untold thousands of dollars.”
Additionally, social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, have been working to delete accounts related to “disinformation efforts backed by Russia and Iran,” and other tech companies, like Microsof,t are on the lookout for additional cyberattacks against clients.
While the U.S.’s election infrastructure and protection against cyberattacks is shaky, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. And potential solutions, Vox says, won’t be found in new technology. Instead, the U.S. might one day be better protected after taking steps towards “better cyber-hygiene,” including stronger passwords, two-factor authentications, and vigilance.
Vox also says that a culture shift (such as using approved hardware and disposing of it shortly after use) and handbooks for campaign security will help, too. Some states, including Tennessee, are using old-fashioned posters to display numbers to call in case of a cybersecurity emergency, reminders about risks, and a list of good practices.
However, only time will tell if these security measures will work, Vox says. And, while preparations are being made for this week’s mid-term elections, cybersecurity leaders are already looking at the 2020 presidential election. Having a record of what happens this year will help guide what steps to take two years from now, and all future elections, especially as technology and cyberattacks continue.