Cyber-terrorism threat has always been a matter of concern for organizations worldwide. From phishing through ransom ware to IoT devices, the security companies have always emphasized on the escalating concern over cybercrimes.
Not only are these crimes limited to private or governmental organizations, but have shown evidence to breach deep into the electoral process as well. It was not until the elections of 2016 that cybersecurity was a greater concern than ever before.
Evidences from Previous Elections
Russia attacked databases of 21 states as detected by sensors of Department of Homeland Security in the year 2016. According to David Becker, official at Center of Election Innovation and Research, the Russians do not need to actually change the elections voting outcome, but to attack the systems so that the U.S discredits its own democratic results.
In April 2017, in the elections of Georgia’s congress district number six, Republicans stood against Democrats. The Democrats were expecting a lead securing 50.3% of votes, but suddenly the percentile started to go down before the computers crashed. An hour later, the system started again, coming out of an infrequent error according to the officials and the Democrats had lost at 48.1%.
In the elections of 2018, $380 million were invested by Congress in order for states to ameliorate cybersecurity. A number of measures were taken including laws for Secure Elections Act, DHS initiatives for having an improved data interdependency and a development of strategies to help the electoral process. Despite the fact that there had been progress in 2018 cybersecurity concerns, there had not been a strong responsive policy against the spread of disinformation.
In the light of all this, it is evident that the grave threat to the electoral process and its outcomes is actually real. This in turn puts the credibility of democratic elective campaign of the United States at stake in the minds of the public. There are several measures and procedures the government and the intelligence agencies would have to take in correspondence with each other, in order for the 2020 elections to go with any untoward incident.
Measures that need to be taken
- To deal with this threat of cyber-terrorism in elections, there should be a constant uninterrupted coordination between government officials, local authorities and intelligence agencies so that any attempt to an attack can be intercepted beforehand.
- It should be reassessed that amongst the security agencies like National Security agency, the U.S Cyber Command, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security which one is actually concerned for cybersecurity in the elections. It should be considered if there is a need for the development of an independent agency that is only concerned with cybersecurity in the electoral process without having other law enforcing obligations.
- Thirdly, every state should build its own Election Protection Program which should be funded by the government to build teams consisting of experts in election security. These teams should verify voting standards and test the local systems for security. They should be able to intercept and attack as well as formulate an immediate and aggressive reaction in case of a cyber attack.