The midterm elections are unfolding and rumors and speculation have been swirling for weeks that foreign or domestic interests could try to hack into voting systems to throw the results. After lessons learned in 2016, strategies have been put in place to avert such a disaster. And if all else fails, the Pentagon has a plan.
Wired reports that there are unprecedented measures being taken nationwide to secure states’ systems. Nevertheless, there have been some instances of trouble simmering. According to Wired, “…An unclassified government report obtained by The Boston Globe this week indicates more than 160 suspected election-related incidents since the beginning of August, ranging from suspicious login attempts to compromised municipal networks.”
What is different this time around compared with two years ago is that election officials and other neutral parties have been focused on improved communications among the array of organizations involved. Quoting David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, Wired writes, “What we lacked in 2016 and before was an organized way to identify patterns and spot trends from above.” What was sorely needed was the ability to coordinate and orchestrate. Again quoting Becker, Wired writes “Now we’ll be able to connect the dots about the origin and nature of the activity thanks to coordination through DHS.”
In the event that these efforts do not fully secure the election systems in place, and evidence of tampering surfaces, there is a retaliatory plan in the works. According to The Daily Beast, the Pentagon announced last week that an offensive cyberattack has been prepared if Russia electronically interferes with the midterm election. A senior official defined interference as “efforts to tamper with voting registration and recording votes.”
The Daily Beast writes, “In preparation for its potential use, U.S. military hackers have been given the go-ahead to gain access to Russian cybersystems that they feel is needed to let the plan unfold quickly, the officials said.”
In the meantime, as Wired reports, coalitions to prevent election meddling are firmly in place. For instance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) assigns a district election officer in US attorneys’ offices around the country as part of its Election Day Watch Program. In addition, the DOJ has three active divisions ready to get to action if needed: criminal, civil rights, and national security. Beyond that, several states, including Washington, Illinois, and Wisconsin have National Guard cybersecurity units on call, as well.
Seeing this kind of heightened alert and coordinated effort to thwart cyberattacks is encouraging. When disparate organizations share information and form alliances it becomes that much harder for cybercriminals to succeed. Now it’s up to businesses to learn that lesson, as well.
Get the full story at Wired.