United States voters have had no shortage of cybersecurity news related to elections in recent months, ranging from allegations of Russian interference to revelations that specific states were targeted in attack campaigns.
Among some of the frequent topics being discussed in the news have been political infighting, conjecture regarding collusion, and questions about what’s being done to prepare for the “next attack.” as we inch closer to the 2018 midterm elections.
And we are inching closer to the 2018 midterm elections. Often overlooked in election-security discussions have been the most critical asset to democracy – the voters themselves, who, according to our most recent survey, are expressing doubts about our elections due to cybersecurity fears.
In our survey, we polled 5,000 eligible voters to determine sentiment regarding election cybersecurity and how that sentiment may affect future voting patterns. In perhaps the most startling revelation from the survey, 1 in 4 voters said they will consider not voting in upcoming elections over cybersecurity fears.
Extrapolated to account for all eligible voters in the United States (about 218 million people), this means as many as 58.8 million voters may actively decide to stay home during upcoming elections, including the 2018 midterms due to cybersecurity fears.
Among some of the other key findings from the survey:
Russia’s Possible Influence on U.S. Elections
Russia’s potential influence in the 2016 election has been a hot-button topic from prior to Election Day in 2016 through the present day. In our survey, we asked: “Do you believe foreign entities influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election?” and nearly half (47%) of voters said yes.
When asked “What country poses the biggest cybersecurity risk to U.S. elections?” 45% of voters said Russia; 20% said the United States itself; 17% said North Korea; 11% said China; and 4% said Iran. (3% answered “other.”)
Voter Inaction Tied to Mistrust
Potential voter inaction may be closely tied to voters’ distrust in election authorities to keep their voting information safe. When asked: “Do you trust your state to keep your voting information safe?” and “Do you trust your voting district to keep your voting information safe?” only 45% of respondents replied “yes.”
Results to this question may have been influenced by recent news. On the day our survey was conducted, it was revealed that nearly 200 million voter records were exposed on the internet when a misconfigured database used by a Republican National Committee (RNC) was discovered.
Seeding Doubt in Democracy – Looking Forward to the 2018 Midterm Elections
Cyberattacks against our elections seed doubt in democracy. The idea that even a single voter is willing to forfeit their vote in fear of a cyberattack is startling. The fact that 1 in 4 voters said they would be willing to do so speaks volumes about how deeply this doubt has penetrated. The alleged cyberattacks surrounding the 2016 elections were a clarion call that foreign entities are motivated to disrupt U.S. elections.
As we head to the 2018 midterms, the United States must prioritise restoring voters’ confidence. Every vote matters. If cyberattacks threaten (or even suggest) that the individual voter is powerless, the fundamental principle of our democracy is undermined.
The full report from Carbon Black outlines several ways that implemented security measures can help restore confidence in our election systems and democracy including: the limited use of electronic voting machines, stronger protection for voting registration systems / voter databases, and creating an auditable paper trail of votes in every state and precinct.
To download the full report please click here.
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