It is no doubt that information technology has greatly affected human lives in the past decades. And it will continue to do so as newer technology emerges. These amazing innovations affected not only our societal and economic systems but it also made its way to revolutionize even political systems. Let’s take elections for example. Since the invention of voting machines in the early 20th century, they seemed to be the most practical and they continued to evolve. Today, many countries in the world, not just the US, worked on their own ways of utilizing such innovation.
However, the acceptance of technology in the voting process has been heavily questioned. Questions about their reliability, security, and the possibility of being rigged have always been there every time a newer tech is developed. A good example of this is the famous Florida election recount way back in 2000 where some machines fail to properly register votes which led to a mass questioning of the system’s trustworthiness.
Are elections safe from cyber-attacks?
While some of these failures can be considered simple machine malfunction, today, with the current rise of cybersecurity awareness, speculations about possible cyberattacks on elections, whether national or local, are also rising. With the upcoming 2020 presidential election, how can we make sure that our votes will be safe from these cyber-attacks?
In the 2019 documentary entitled, “The Great Hack” by Netflix, they detailed how simple information and inputs we share on our social media or other apps can be used to manipulate one’s voting preference. In the documentary, they claim that the 2016 election was victim to this kind of political advertising. To put into perspective, have you noticed how the items you searched on Amazon or eBay appear as ads on your Facebook timeline or other social media platforms? The same algorithm is believed can be used to manipulate one’s behavior.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing social distancing promote the application of online voting for the coming 2020 elections, especially for absentee voters and as we all know, almost everything we do online today can be subject to cyber threats. So here we can see two points of entry for potential cyber-attacks – they can attack the voting system directly through malware, or the voters themselves through analysis of harvested user information. So yes, elections can be attacked by cybercriminals.
What can we do to protect our votes from cyber-attacks?
While the Federal Government implements its own cybersecurity measures to protect the votes from possible tampering, we must be aware that most of today’s cyber threats target common users. Cybersecurity experts like TrinSecurity Inc., suggests the following to help common users like us protect our votes:
- Limit the personal information that you disclose on your social media. Social media platforms are harvest fields for cyber attackers. Common social media platforms like Facebook will let you change security settings so please do so.
- Be careful when installing and allowing apps to gain access to information stored on your phone or computer. Why would a camera app request access to your phone directory? Our phones and PCs have permission settings where you can choose what information an app can access.
- Avoid accessing sensitive personal information on public wifis or computers.
- If you are to vote online, make sure you are connected to a secured network. Use a trusted VPN service.
- Consult security experts like TrinSecurity Inc. to help you secure your data online.
- Secure your voting ballot. Don’t let others handle it for you.
By the end of the day, the overall security of the 2020 elections resides in the cooperative effort of the government and its citizens. Protecting your personal information can be a way of protecting your nation.