Election-Interfering Cyberattacks

September 21, 2020 03:00 PM

Election interference is defined as an attempt by a government to influence an election in another country for political gain.

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DDoS Attacks Impact the Election Process

Election interference is defined as an attempt by a government to influence an election in another country for political gain. Via covert and overt operations, both nation states and individuals have been able to accomplish regime change. The only thing that has changed in terms of foreign electoral intervention is the way current operations are conducted in a digital age.

The digital evolution has had a positive and a negative impact on election processes around the world. While information and news travel at a faster rate, the powers that be have leveraged this exposure for political gain and exploitation. The digital evolution of the election process has created a larger threat landscape than most anticipated.

Election Interference

Today, there are a few fundamental ways an adversary could digitally interfere with an election process. A malicious actor could interfere with an election through disinformation campaigns, information-based campaigns or disruptive attacks.

Disinformation campaigns can leverage social network bots to spam the world with misinformation to influence an array of people. Targeted disinformation campaigns make use of information and intelligence gathered from big data leaks and paid ad campaigns on social media platforms that target specific people and groups.

Information campaigns typically involve spear phishing and malware-based attacks designed to gain access to critical systems to either alter, leak or destroy the data. Normally, the malicious actors look to steal campaign strategies and sensitive information to manipulate, overstimulate and emotionally-compromise social media users. This is accomplished by targeting the personal/professional emails or social media accounts of election officials, campaign staff or volunteers so they can discredit and smear a targeted campaign at strategic moments. By compromising digital users with information, a threat actor can influence an election.

The other form of election interference comes in the form of disruption that can sometimes be caused by the majority party to silence their opposition. Attacks can range from disruptive calls and messages designed to flood campaign resources to malicious acts such as denial-of-service attacks on election-related website and reporting systems. Additionally, outages designed to impact power, water, internet, telephone and transportation services are used to cause chaos, project national instability and influence voters at critical moments.

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