elections

elections

Late-game election security: What to watch and watch out for

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, Defense Department, elections, Trickbot
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Despite disruption of the Trickbot botnet network, last-minute leaks of stolen documents and post-election undermining of trust in the election system remain big concerns.

As we head into the final inning of what has been a dramatic US presidential election season, it’s clear the country has so far been spared the kind of high-stakes hacking and disinformation campaigns that marred the 2016 election. Still, US intel and cyber defense organizations are on the lookout for last-minute ransomware attacks and have been joined by their private sector counterparts while social media companies appear to be clamping down on disinformation efforts.

The most striking evidence that the US  may be better prepared than it was in 2016  is the extraordinary actions taken by US CyberCommand (CyberCom) to meddle with the Russian-language Trickbot botnet network, used to deliver malware, including ransomware, and frequently exploited by Russian military intelligence for plausible deniability. Following a scoop by journalist Brian Krebs that an unknown actor was meddling with Trickbot, news leaked over the weekend that CyberCom was the meddler.

CyberCom’s goal was to thwart any possible ransomware attacks on selected or strategically important jurisdictions. The military cyber arm might have also been pushed into action by a Trickbot-enabled ransomware attack on top healthcare provider Universal Health Services (UHS), which was forced to shutter digital operations when 400 of its computer systems were locked up by Ryuk ransomware.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

 

Election security status: Some progress on ballot integrity, but not on Russian interference

Articles, Blog, cybersecurity, DHS, elections
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With the election less than two months away, government and election officials say voting itself is more secure, but Russian disinformation remains largely unaddressed.

The presidential election in 2016 was a wake-up call that the security of the country’s election infrastructure can never again be considered a sure thing. During the last presidential campaign, Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s network and stole emails from Clinton campaign officials while also breaking into at least two county voting systems in Florida. Those digital security attacks took place alongside destructive disinformation campaigns that ran on vulnerable and unprepared social media networks.

At this year’s Billington Cybersecurity Summit, 55 days before the next presidential election, experts weighed in on the progress, or lack thereof, that the US has made in securing America’s elections since 2016.

Chris Krebs, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), told attendees that three-and-a-half years after he joined the agency it has “turned the corner in a really meaningful way” on cybersecurity. “We’re working in all 50 states on a regular basis to share information, to secure their systems, to ensure that they have all the resources they need to be prepared, whether it’s a COVID environment or non-COVID environment.”

Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity advisor at CISA, says his group is hard at work on supporting the more than 8,800 officials who run the country’s elections. Many of the voting jurisdictions are small but many election offices represent the largest IT operations in their counties in terms of total number of assets.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Photo by Kari Sullivan on Unsplash

Security in the spotlight as the US heads into elections

Articles, Blog, elections
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A new report and tabletop exercise show how the upcoming US elections could be disrupted at the local government level without hacking the election itself.

Attacks on the digital infrastructures of US state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) governments continue at a healthy clip, a chronic trend that does not bode well for election security as the nation moves into the crucial run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Although a lot of research has focused on the potential hacking of election equipment and related backend infrastructure, recent studies and exercises suggest that adversaries can disrupt the democratic process almost as well by simply targeting other local government and community systems.

In a report released today, cybersecurity firm Blue Voyant presents the results of a study that examined the local governments’ cybersecurity posture in 108 jurisdictions going back to 2017. They found a steep rise in ransomware attacks on SLTT governments from 2017 to 2019 and a jump in the amount of ransom demanded from $30,000 in 2017 to $380,000 in 2019, with some ransom amounts exceeding $1 million.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

Time running out to protect US November elections

Articles, Blog, Cyber Security, cybersecurity, elections
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Experts say it’s too late for significant legislative action to better protect voting this fall, but meaningful changes are still possible.

Four years have passed since the 2016 presidential election when revelations of Russian hacking of the DNC threw political contests into turmoil. In the aftermath, the Mueller investigation, Justice Department indictments and other efforts made clear that the US election and voting systems themselves were the targets of cyberattacks. The subsequent Mueller probe and DOJ indictments also revealed massive Russian digital disinformation campaigns that permeated the election.

Now, as the country heads into the next presidential campaign weakened by a pandemic and laboring under a collapsed economy, little has happened over the past four years to substantially shore up voting, campaign or election security, with only marginal improvements made around the edges. There is time, though, to implement last-minute security measures that could substantially improve election integrity, experts say.

[This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.]