By now you’ve heard about suspected Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. But, according to the newly-formed Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), President Trump and the DNC aren’t the only ones who need to be worried about hackers.
While presidential hopefuls and other high-profile candidates usually have the resources to invest in security, that’s not the case for thousands of people running for federal, state and local office, according to Jeanette Manfra, CISA’s assistant director for cybersecurity. As such, low-budget campaigns are left relying on personal devices and accounts, which are potentially rife with bugs and easy to infiltrate, she said.
Often, low-level candidates also don’t think there’d be any reason to target them, but Manfra warned it’s impossible to know what races online adversaries will be interested in swaying.
“I don’t care if you think you’re not interesting or your information is not interesting… When it comes to elections, anybody can be a target.”
Anyone who has ever worked on a campaign knows they are primarily data collection operations, but often lack the most basic security measures to protect the privacy of the voters (and staffers) involved. That’s why:
The agency also issued a set of security guidelines that even the most cash-strapped campaigns could follow, like using two-factor authentication, strong passwords and encryption…
“There’s most likely on any given Tuesday an election happening somewhere in this country, so this is not something we can ever stop focusing on,” she said.
But while data privacy and security are important concerns, and also happen to be in vogue, the folks at CISA know more than just voter lists are at stake here.
Over the past two decades America has become so polarized that partisans on both sides are already more than happy to distrust each other for any reason.
Like something taken from the plot of Homeland, sophisticated hackers easily could exploit lax data security to sow chaos in targeted down-ballot elections, further undermining public trust in our political system, and making the current bad situation even worse.