Political candidates and elections are increasingly being targeted by foreign and domestic adversaries, according to presenters at the virtual USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative Regional Workshop on Thursday.
The symposium — which was hosted by the University of Southern California with a regional focus on Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — discussed the impact of disinformation and misinformation, as well as threats to state and federal elections. Cybersecurity experts offered tips to candidates and election officials for improving election security.
Citing recent attacks and ransom demands on a growing list of businesses, hospitals and other institutions, Clifford Newman, professor and director of the USC Center for Computer System Security, said there are four ways that bad actors attempt to disrupt elections: voter manipulation, discouraging or preventing voting, manipulating vote tallies and creating distrustful outcomes, such as with the 2020 election.
Newman said manipulating vote tallies is actually very hard to do, and despite claims to the contrary that outside influences had hacked some of the electronic voting systems, the Department of Justice and Homeland Security found no evidence that foreign adversaries had prevented voting, changed votes or disrupted the ability to tally votes or to transmit election results in a timely manner.
However, Newman pointed out that they did find evidence of “Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-affiliated actors materially impacted the security of networks associated with or pertaining to U.S. political organizations, candidates and campaigns during the 2020 federal elections.”
Despite the general consensus by these agencies that no votes were manipulated through the hacking of electronic voting machines in Wyoming or elsewhere, many voters pushed back on this assertion, particularly in the wake of My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell’s 72-hour symposium in August that asserted voting machines were responsible for stealing the election from former President Donald Trump. To date, there has been no conclusive proof to support these claims, although there are legal challenges still…