Cyber Security and the 2016 Elections


Oct 31, 2016

Oct 31, 2016


With election season fast approaching, the most nerve wracking decision for many individuals in the political sphere, aside from picking a candidate, is ensuring that the electoral cycle runs smoothly and securely. Guaranteeing a free and fair election is top priority, and in order to do so, it is necessary to ensure the security of voting systems and polls.

Politics and Cyber Security

Though not a regularly addressed topic of discussion in the sector, cyber security and IT governance play poignant roles in politics. Over the last decade, cyber security concerns have heightened within the government sphere. The North Korean hack of Sony Pictures[1], leaking of sensitive information through sites WikiLeaks, among others, are all examples of cyber security attacks against or in response to political entities. Most recently in the political arena, various political parties have been targets of cyber security breaches. Leaked emails from DNC officials’ accounts and credit card data breaches of residents of Trump hotels nationwide prove that both ends of the political scale are targets to cyber-attacks.

Now more than ever, political entities must take the necessary measures to improve cyber security and raise awareness on the issue of potential cyber-attacks. However, in order to do so one must understand why cyber security is crucial to the election cycle.

How Are Electoral Systems Hacked?

Though nationwide hack is highly improbable[2], infiltration into state electoral systems are not impossible. In June of 2016, both the Illinois Board of Elections and Arizona voter registration databases were hacked. Though no files were erased or modified, it was reported that hackers had access to voters’ drivers’ licensesand Social Security numbers, among a host of other sensitive information[3].

Some electoral systems are still outdated[4]. According to Brennan Center for Justice researcher Christopher Famighetti, “many states are using voting machines that are at least 10 years old”.

What Can Be Done?

Though there is not much the general public can do to combat a cyber-attack on this scale, people can educate themselves on the matter and demand more policy and stronger infrastructure to combat issues pertaining to cyber security in the long run. Updating voting machines and building the appropriate infrastructure to withstand polling station.

Moving forward, it is important for presidential candidates to build more prominent platforms on cybersecurity awareness and governance.





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