With the upcoming US elections 2020, the adversaries are looking forward to disrupting the presidential elections. So, let’s take a look at the potential threats hovering around the US elections.
As the US presidential election dates are coming closer, the US government is all set with its cybersecurity campaign. Among the various other cybersecurity threats, ransomware attack could be one of the most crucial weapons of hackers for disrupting the elections. So, today we are going to discuss the cybersecurity issues surrounding the US elections 2020.
How Could Ransomware Affect The Upcoming US Elections 2020?
It is believed that ransomware is potentially the most prominent threat to the US government and the upcoming elections.
If we take a look at the report of cybersecurity firm, Recorded Future, then it says that around 169 ransomware attacks have been launched by the hackers on the government agencies between the year 2013 and the first four months of 2019.
The primary aim of the cybercriminals behind infecting the systems of government agencies with ransomware is to demand a big-fat ransom for an encryption key that will crack the lock on the precious files and records of the agencies.
We can notice a significant hike in ransomware attacks in the past few years. According to Recorded Future, there has been evidence of 46 ransomware attacks on government agencies in the year 2016. In 2017, this number was around 36, and in 2018, the attack count increased to 53. There have been reports of around 21 ransomware cyberattacks in just the first four months of 2019.
Looking at the trend and increasing number of cyberattacks today, the threat of ransomware attack looms more extensively as the dates of the US presidential election are coming closer. The US government fears that the adversaries can deploy ransomware to disrupt the voting mechanism in various states of the US.
Disrupting Voter Databases Through Ransomware
An analysis was published in September 2019, in the Washington Post. According to the analysis, the cybersecurity experts, along with the US Department of Homeland Security’s high-ranking cybersecurity officials, believe that there are chances ransomware attacks in US Elections 2020. The cyber attackers can deploy the ransomware for locking up the information present in the voter registration databases, which are maintained by the state governments.
If such a ransomware attack becomes successful, then the officials of state election would be unable to do the verification regarding whether the people are casting their votes in the right district or not. In addition to this, the officials will be unable to ensure whether a person is eligible to vote or not.
The worry of the US government regarding the ransomware threat is not empty. In a report which was filed by the former special counsel, Robert Mueller, there was a revelation according to which, even in the 2016 US election, the Russian hackers attempted to target the voter registration database.
But, what makes these databases so vulnerable to cyberattacks? The main reason behind it is that these databases are connected to the internet very often. It makes them a convenient target for cyber attackers.
For safeguarding the voter registration database from any kind of cyber threat, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is taking protective initiatives and working alongside the local election officials.
Additionally, the agency is also working parallel to the voter jurisdictions for taking proactive measures ahead of election season.
Paperless Voting Could Also Be A potential Target
In an online discussion conducted by the news site Politico, Eric Geller, cybersecurity reporter, and J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan professor and voting security expert, participated.
Both the experts raised concerns about the use of paperless voting machines in the elections. Although these advanced machines are the wave of the future but the machines which do not leave a paper trail becomes more vulnerable to hacking attempts.
In the discussion, it was suggested by the experts that it would be a smart move to use paper ballots as they are less likely to be hacked. In addition to this, they even suggested the requirement of a risk-limiting audit for matching the computer totals with the paper ballots.