Cybersecurity experts at DHS are preparing for just such a scenario, warning that election systems are at a “high risk” for potential hacking and manipulation.
Twenty-two municipalities in the Lone Star State were the targets of massive ransomware attacks — a kind of cyber kidnapping. According to the mayor of Keene, “Just about everything we do at city hall was impacted.”
If just a few attacks could debilitate almost two dozen cities in Texas, imagine the chaos if several hundred were carried out on our country’s voting infrastructure right before Election Day.
Imagine this tactic being employed on a wide scale by a committed foreign adversary. Long lines at the polls are a perennial problem that a simple attack could exacerbate. One wrong click could lock state officials out of voter registration systems, or even alter vital information on voter rolls. This would inevitably cause confusion at the polls, which could deter some from voting. If the enemy were to target the right areas, the legitimacy of the entire election could be thrown into doubt.
Such a situation almost played out in 2016. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report attested that the Russian government attempted to hack into one state’s election results website.
Unfortunately, Republican senators have repeatedly argued that new election security legislation is unnecessary. They claim past appropriations for state cybersecurity are sufficient.
Despite what these senators have been told in briefings, federal funding alone has proved inadequate. There have been 60 hacking attacks on U.S. institutions this year, and 170 since 2013. It is necessary to harden government targets and pass legislation like the DETER Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. This bipartisan bill would greatly increase the cost to foreign adversaries meddling in our elections. In particular, any government determined by the intelligence community to have interfered in our political system would be subject to severe sanctions on major sectors of their economy.
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Source: Roll Call