Chris Young, CEO of McAfee, has predicted that the demand for cyber security services would rise significantly during general elections in the US, the UK, Germany, and France as hackers are increasingly targeting “major events” to maximise their impact.
Young added that the demand for cyber security services by political parties could rise ahead of the US mid-term elections in November this year. No political party in the US would want to suffer the kind of data breach as the one suffered by Hillary Clinton’s campaign when overseas hackers got their hands on 50,000 classified emails after orchestrating a phishing attack.
“We’re now at a point where you could almost be certain than any notable event will have a corresponding set of cyber attacks with it. Not just here in the US but certainly in the UK, Germany and France, in any developed country there is much more heightened awareness in and around making sure the integrity of our elections is solid,” he said.
“Very simple things, even websites for example being manipulated locally to send people to the wrong polling places – those are the kind of things we’ll be looking out for. It’s something we do in different countries where we may or may not have closer relationships with law enforcement and it totally depends on the needs of a given locale,” he added.
Threat to democracy
Last year, Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), wrote a letter to MPs to apprise them of the threat posed to political parties and elections by Russian hackers.
“You will be aware of the coverage of events in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.
“This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts,” he warned.
A couple of months after Martin issued the warning, suspected hackers infiltrated as many as 90 email accounts belonging to MPs including Prime Minister Theresa May as well as several of her cabinet colleagues. A parliamentary spokesman confirmed that these accounts were protected by weak passwords and were exploited by hackers.
Focussing more on preparation
Considering how several countries like the US, the UK, Germany, and France will face various cyber threats during their respective elections, Young says that it is important to secure election systems and prepare them for various scenarios rather than investing more on the attribution of attack.
“We spend a little bit less time focusing on attribution of attack, there is some value in that but there is way more value at the organisational level, at the country level, of understanding where you have issues, what you might be faced with.
“Because I think if you get too focused on ‘it’s an attack coming from country A or it’s coming from country B’ , what happens if you get an attack from country C or from a totally different criminal group? You need to be ready for a lot of different scenarios. So I think it’s important that organisation agility remains at the forefront of your cyber security posture,” he added.