Election cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in the country today. It dominated both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and will most likely continue to do so until state and local governments can demonstrate that their voting infrastructure and solutions are as secure and tamper-proof as possible.
When voters go to the polls, they may not see the complex mix of components that drive today’s democratic system. Secure these and you have a much better chance of containing the threat from outside actors.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ELECTION CYBERSECURITY THREATS?
Electronic voting is faster, faster and more accurate than manual voting and hand counting. But because intelligent systems can be used to collect data and communicate with other systems, they could be exposed to cyber threats. For example, potential vulnerabilities in the machines used to provide registration information could allow unauthorized persons to tamper with voter information.
According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the cybersecurity threats are in elections can take three basic forms:
- Information theft (confidentiality attacks): This could be voter registration data or the results of early tabulation. Data theft could raise doubts about the integrity of the system.
- Modification of the information within or the functionality of a system (integrity attacks): This can include the modification of the results of the voter table / aggregation, which can have serious effects on the result. This also includes attempts to change the recorded voices yourself. For example, foreign attackers reportedly violated electoral systems in two Florida counties in 2016 despite making no changes.
- Denial-of-service (availability attacks): This can take the form of DDoS or ransomware attacks against the voting infrastructure. By freezing voter registration databases and voting machines, threat actors could seriously disrupt voting.
Fortunately, there are technologies that can go a long way in protecting yourself – starting with private network solutions.
HOW DOES THE ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE WORK?
Networks arguably play a crucial role because it is these communication channels that connect important infrastructure components with each other and with centralized data centers.
The CISA has the task of ensuring free and fair elections and divides the infrastructure for electronic voting into several main elements:
- Registration: Databases of voter records that contain information about whether and where individuals can vote.
- Voting books: Electronic voting books contain voter information from the databases mentioned above and can be connected to other voter databases or servers.
- Voting Machine: This is the main technology that voters interact with in order to cast their vote. Voting machines can be divided into three categories: electronic voting consoles at polling stations, devices for scanning paper ballots and for listing in tables at polling stations, and devices for scanning ballot papers.
- Tabulation: The machines and processes that count the votes cast on the voting machines. This can be done at the district level or at more central locations.
- Websites: Official election sites that provide information such as registration, voting and election results.
ELECTIONS CYBER ATTACKS: WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Several threat actors have different motives for disrupting elections. These can include foreign states sowing conflict and seeking to weaken America’s geopolitical power, hacktivists seeking to fuel chaos and division, and cybercriminals seeking to profit from blackmail attempts.
Should hackers cause disruptions, delays in reporting or even data theft, this could undermine voter confidence in the election results. Cyber attacks on elections could have dangerous and long-term effects on voter turnout and polarization of the electorate.
WHAT BEST IS TO IMPROVE CYBER SECURITY WITH THE TRUE?
Given the amount of sensitive data that is being transferred – including key vote counts – it makes sense to start the cybersecurity efforts at elections with secure infrastructure solutions.
Local and state governments are already taking the following steps:
- Building private wireless networks: The public Internet is the primary means by which external threat actors can reach voting machines. This means that the first step is to keep voting data and devices off the publicly routed Internet. Instead, they can be moved to 4G LTE / 5G networks with private IPs, making it difficult for attackers to discover and infiltrate them. Election administrators can work with their network provider to ensure that election volunteer communications are separated from election traffic and provide seamless, authorized access to a highly reliable nationwide network – and provide scalability and control where they are most needed .
- Replace consumer-grade connectivity: Upgrade routers in key election sites to routers with built-in security features, including unified threat management, web content filtering, and IDS / IPS. Support for 4G LTE or 5G also provides improved security, including end-to-end encryption.
- Minimizing transmission times: This can help to shorten the time window for attackers on election day.
- Decommissioning voting machines: When decommissioning voting machines, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly clean up any data that may be stored in the voting machine in order to prevent potential hacking attacks should the machine be brought back into operation in the future.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PARTNER
Now that you have identified the best way to defend against cyberattacks on Wahlers, it is time to select the following vendors and technologies:
- Reliable, comprehensive
- Robust, with connection redundancy, supported by secure network technologies
- Easy deployment at temporary locations
- Remotely manageable
- A serious managed and professional services provider
- Interoperable with various third-party systems
- Cost efficient
Use these government resources to learn more about how to prepare for election cybersecurity and how Verizon helped the city of Chicago conduct safe elections during a pandemic.