British citizens are among the most afraid in Europe of cyberattacks taking place during elections, a report by the European Commission has found. Three out of four voters in the UK are concerned about widespread hacking while casting their vote, the report said. This level of concern was only beaten by Spain, where 77pc said they were afraid of such attacks. The survey asked more than 27,000 individuals from across the 28 EU member states about their concerns over disinformation campaigns, and whether they thought data breaches and cyberattacks would interfere with electoral processes.
Corin Imai, Senior Security Advisor at DomainTools:
“When we consider how disinformation campaigns spread by outside forces attempted to exert influence over the EU referendum campaign, it makes sense that the UK is more fearful of the cyber-threat to elections than other parts of Europe, but this does not mean that those outside of the UK are safe. All Western democracies should be concerned by attempts to use cyberattacks and fake news, which could be used by hostile nation-states for their own gain. While much has been made of how utilities represent critical infrastructure which is vulnerable to cyberattack, the integrity of our electoral process is just as, if not more critical to our way of life, and should also be considered critical.”
Laurie Mercer, Security Engineer at HackerOne:
“Awareness of cyber attacks and breaches has never been greater. It can seem like the number and skill of cybercriminals is higher than the defenders. Confidence in Government IT systems is low. British citizens are worried that their data will be breached. That said, it is difficult to justify this level of concern when thinking of the paper-based elections that we hold in the UK. During British elections, voters mark ballot papers with a pen in a voting booth in a polling station, which are later counted manually. The process is physical: there is a risk of social engineering, but it is really quite difficult to ‘hack’ a paper-based election to the extent that the result can be affected.
It is inevitable that at some point the British election process will digitise. Imagine if you could vote from home. Digital technology including biometrics and digital ledgers hold great promise for improving the process of voting. Digital transformation could reduce the cost of holding elections and referenda to the point where people could be regularly polled for their opinion on the big decisions that affect their daily lives. It is important that as we adopt the technology necessary to hold elections digitally, security takes the prime position. Any digital transformation of British elections needs to ensure that the security of the process increases and does not regress.”
Javvad Malik, Security Advocate at AlienVault:
“There has been much in the news around hacking and manipulation of elections, so it is not surprising to see a high number of people worried about cyber attacks around election time.
Public perceptions aside, it is a reminder of how embedded and reliant on digital systems the world has become – and as a result, any intentional or accidental misconfigurations or errors can have huge impact. Therefore, it is essential for all providers to invest in security to ensure that systems operate as required.”