After a coordinated ransomware attack took place on 22 local governments in Texas, one has to think about the security of the voter’s database and how it is possible that it may be hacked and misused during the elections. Robert Mueller, in a special report, had said that the Russians had breached the voter’s data during the 2016 elections. This is backed up by intelligence officials as well.
The US government plans to launch a new program that will help election officials prepare for ransomware scenario. The program will use remote computer penetration tests, educational material, and vulnerability scans to provide guidelines on preventing and recovering from such attacks. Intelligence officials fear there could be ransomware attacks before the 2020 elections; they are concerned foreign hackers may destroy or manipulate the data.
“It is imperative that states and municipalities limit the availability of information about electoral systems or administrative processes and secure their websites and databases that could be exploited,” the FBI said in a statement.
Engin Kirda, a Northeastern University professor who studies network security, thinks that since every jurisdiction and state has its own computer network to determine the security of each of these systems will be a great challenge. He says that even though automation has made things easier, it has also increased the risk of manipulation and exploitation; it is easier to use the leaked information from the voter database to spread misinformation to the voters.
The threat of ransomware attack is worth concern because of its potential impact on voting results, experts say. John Sebes-chief technology officer of the ESET Institute says, “A pre-election undetected attack could tamper with voter lists, creating huge confusion and delays, disenfranchisement, and at large enough scale could compromise the validity of the election.”