from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

New Cyber Brief: Transforming Election Cybersecurity

May 11, 2017

A person holding a Ted Cruz sign stands in a voting booth with a child in Bedford, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016. Carlo Allegri/Reuters
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Elections and Voting

The Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program has launched a new Cyber Brief. This one is authored by our own David Fidler.

The 2016 U.S. election constituted a watershed for democracies in the digital age. During the election cycle, fears proliferated among policymakers and the public that foreign actors could exploit cyber technologies [PDF] to tamper with voter registration, access voting machines, manipulate storage and transmission of results, and influence election outcomes. Russian information operations and disinformation on social media compounded these fears about election cybersecurity by raising questions about foreign interference with the election’s integrity. Similar worries have arisen with elections this year in France, Britain, and Germany, and the Netherlands opted to hand count ballots in its March election to prevent hacking from affecting the outcome. 

Technical strategies [PDF] to protect election systems from cyber interference exist, such as stopping the use of voting machines connected by wireless networks and deploying machines that produce auditable paper trails. However, David argues that the events of 2016 demonstrate that more high-level political action is required to manage real and perceived cyber vulnerabilities in election systems. Government officials and nongovernmental organizations that support elections should adopt measures to protect election systems from online threats, deter cyber interference with such systems, and reassure citizens their right to vote is defended. Achieving these objectives requires local, national, and international actions to strengthen cybersecurity in election systems and to elevate election integrity in cybersecurity policies, human rights activities, and election assistance and monitoring.

You can find the full brief here.

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