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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

How to safeguard election results from cyber threats

The integrity of elections faces unprecedented challenges from malicious actors seeking to manipulate outcomes through digital means.

As the votes in the elections are being tallied, the looming spectre of cyber threats casts a shadow.

In an age where technology affects every aspect of our lives, the integrity of elections faces unprecedented challenges from malicious actors seeking to manipulate outcomes through digital means.

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Doros Hadjizenonos, regional director at Fortinet, said resilient cybersecurity measures and collaboration are essential for protecting democracy and election integrity.

“Election security and ensuring the processes involved are fair, resilient, and safe is paramount to maintaining public trust in the democratic function.

“In the aftermath of an election, cyber threats can manifest in various forms, from deep fakes to taking advantage of common security issues that can cause data loss and affect votes. It’s therefore crucial to increase awareness and vigilance among voters, as well as political candidates and officials,” explains Hadjizenonos.

He said election officials are often the frontline of campaigns, which makes them prime targets for cyberattacks such as targeted phishing.

“Agencies involved in election processes should consider offering officials regular cybersecurity training that empower them to recognise potential security risks.”

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Breaches of voter registration databases and systems can also represent a challenge. These include attacks targeting the equipment and systems that voters use to register, such as IT infrastructure used to manage election processes, storage systems that contain voting data, and polling locations.

“Election databases store the personal data of voters, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Altering, hacking, or publishing these records could result in significant data breaches,” warns Hadjizenonos.

Strengthening cyber resilience

Hadjizenonos said in order to fortify the cyber resilience of elections and counter the threats of misinformation, manipulation and fraud, it is imperative to bolster cybersecurity measures.

“By implementing robust cybersecurity measures, like vigilant monitoring, swift incident response plans, vulnerability monitoring and secure encryption protocols, election processes can effectively identify and neutralise cyber threats before they compromise the democratic process.”

Hadjizenonos said protecting the integrity of the election results should be a partnership between both state and local government agencies, election officials, and affiliated organisations.

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