It’s a provocative question that reads like the cover blurb for a paperback spy novel, but it’s drawing serious attention in these days of cyber crime.
Could hackers disrupt the U.S. presidential election and, if they did, what would be the implications for our democracy?
“Theoretically, there are several things a hacker could do to interfere with the election,” says Gary S. Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall (www.snoopwall.com), a company that specializes in cybersecurity.
“They could delete names from a voter list so that when people showed up to vote there’s no record of them being registered. They could change the actual voting machine results, putting the wrong person in office. Or they might just hack in so that they can steal people’s personal information and commit identity theft.”
Already concerns arose after the Democratic National Committee was hacked this summer, reportedly by Russians. More recently there were reports of hacks of the voting registration systems in Arizona and Illinois.
The FBI says Russians also were behind the Arizona hack, which involved malware being found on a county election official’s computer. In Illinois, hackers downloaded information on as many as 200,000 voters.
Miliefsky says the federal government could and should take several steps if it’s truly concerned that the Russian government, criminal Russian cartels or anyone else might try to hijack the election. Those steps include:
• Issue an ultimatum. Government officials should issue a public statement to Russia letting it know it will face cyber-war consequences if either the Russian government or Russian criminals try to interfere with the U.S. voting system.
• Go on high alert. The National Security Agency should monitor, in a state of high alert, the election networks to see if cyber attacks are happening and find out who is perpetrating the crime.
• Enlist cybersecurity help. The U.S. government could request the assistance of cybersecurity experts to help elections officials ensure their networks and voting machines are patched and secure.
•Partner with cybersecurity companies. U.S.-based cybersecurity companies could be offered grants to deploy advanced tools on election networks to shore up their defense.
“It’s time for us to get vigilant and pro-active,” Miliefsky says. “No nation-state hackers or cybercriminals should be able to undermine the basis of our democracy by cyber-election fraud.
“Of course, going back to old-fashioned ‘paper-based voting’ wouldn’t hurt this election cycle, either.”
About Gary S. Miliefsky
Gary S. Miliefsky is founder of SnoopWall Inc. (www.snoopwall.com), a cutting edge counter-intelligence technology company offering free consumer-based software to secure personal data on cell-phones and tablets, while generating revenues helping banks and government agencies secure their networks. He has been active in the INFOSEC arena, as the Executive Producer of Cyber Defense Magazine and a regular contributor to Hakin9 Magazine.