According to a new poll reported on in The Hill, one in four American voters will consider not voting in upcoming elections due to concerns over cybersecurity. This is troubling news as a healthy democracy depends on public activity and confidence.
Even more unsettling is the realization that these skeptics might not be wrong to worry. Without the proper cyber protection policies in place, voter information really can be exploited by cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers. CyberPolicy examines this complex issue below.
Russia & Beyond
In January 2017, four intelligence agencies (the CIA, FBI, NSA and National Intelligence) determined with a "high degree of confidence" that Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump by hacking members of the Democratic National Convention and spreading fake news to sway public opinion. But that's not all.
In June, it was revealed that Russia's cyberattacks on the U.S. electoral system also extended to election-related systems in a total of 39 states! Kremlin-backed hackers gained access to voter databases in various states which contained personal information on American citizens including names, dates of birth, genders, driver's licenses and partial Social security numbers. According to Bloomberg, 15 million people were affected (half of whom are active voters), and as many as 90,000 records were ultimately compromised.
As you can see, this is no trifling matter.
Unfortunately, the current administration has been less than enthusiastic about perusing Russia on these matters. President Trump was even reluctant to sign a sanctions bill against Russia. Instead, the administration has focused on the president's "long-standing belief" that the popular vote was swayed by 3 million illegal votes; a claim which has not been corroborated by any U.S. institution.
Nevertheless, the administration has pushed for the creation of a 'voter database' in the name of "election integrity." However, cybersecurity experts worry that this could actually make things worse for U.S. citizens.
The newly formed Advisory Committee on Election Integrity has requested complete voter rolls from secretaries of state across the country. These files contain personal information as well as people's political parties, voting history, partial SSNs, felony history and more. Unsurprisingly, this idea has encountered pushback from more than 20 states.
The worries here are two pronged. First, voting rights advocates worry that the government could use this information stymie legitimate voters from participating in open elections. The second concern is that a database of this kind will simply be too enticing to hackers.
"Aggregating the voter rolls from many states creates a bigger privacy risk than the patchwork of state data we have today, because it creates a one-stop shop for people who want to use the data maliciously, from identity thieves to stalkers," says Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, according to Wired.
The embattled state of the U.S. electoral system is unlikely to conclude anytime soon. In the meantime, citizens should do their best to keep their personal information safe from cyber crooks by following smarter password protocols, avoiding common cyberattacks and staying up to date on the latest cybersecurity news.
Similarly, businesses and private organizations would do well to invest in cyber liability insurance from a leading provider. This way, even if your network is breached or your data stolen, your company won't have to face the financial damages alone.
Start your search for the ideal cyber insurance provider to match your needs by visiting CyberPolicy today!