Election systems should be considered critical infrastructure

Are you protecting your users and sensitive O365 data from being leaked? Learn how Specops Authentication for O365 can help.

93 percent of security professionals are concerned about cyber-attacks targeting election infrastructure and data, and 81 percent believe cyber criminals will target election data as it is transmitted by machines, software and hardware applications, from local polling stations to central aggregation points, a recent study by Venafi has revealed.

Election systems critical infrastructure

“Last year, attendees at DEF CON managed to find and take advantage of vulnerabilities in five different voting machine types within 24 hours,” said Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi.

“While these findings were disturbing, conference attendees only examined a small portion of election infrastructure. It’s clear to nearly all security professionals that the back-end systems that transmit, aggregate, tabulate, validate and store election data are at least as vulnerable to cyber-attacks as voting machines.”

Additional findings from the study include:

  • 95 percent believe election systems—including voting machines, software and back-end systems—should be considered critical infrastructure.
  • When asked what areas of election infrastructure were most vulnerable to cyber attackers:
    • 54 percent say voting machines that collect election data.
    • 52 percent say encrypted communications between polling stations and back-end election systems.
    • 50 percent say systems that store voter registration data.
  • Only two percent are very confident in their local, state and federal governments’ abilities to detect cyber-attacks targeting election infrastructure. In addition, only three percent are very confident in their local, state and federal governments’ abilities to block them.
  • Sixty-four percent believe vulnerabilities and exploits connected with election systems are available to cyber attackers on the dark web.

Earlier this month, a grand jury issued a detailed indictment on international interference during the 2016 US presidential election. Details in the indictment indicate that nation-state actors utilized encrypted tunnels to target vulnerabilities in election infrastructure, along with other attack methods.

“Security professionals clearly think that machine-to-machine communication in the electoral process is a high value asset for attackers targeting election results,” said Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence for Venafi.

“This is just one reason why governments around the world need to make the security of all encrypted, machine-to-machine communication their top concern.”

Conducted by Dimensional Research in July 2018, the study included responses from 411 IT security professionals in the US, UK and Australia.