How Cybersecurity Helped Prevent Chaos at the 2020 Election


Cybersecurity analyst Dustin Loeffler likens presidential elections to the Super Bowl for cybersecurity professionals, who spend months getting ready for them. Many analysts work with federal and state governments to buffer election infrastructure towards cyberattacks from overseas powers and curtail the unfold of disinformation campaigns. And this election cycle, their efforts paid off.

“It’s been a pretty low-drama election from a cybersecurity standpoint, which is really good,” stated Loeffler, director of cybersecurity at Saint Louis University who helped develop the curriculum for Springboard’s upcoming Cybersecurity Career Track

Going on the offensive

While there’s little doubt the 2020 presidential race was tumultuous—states have been nonetheless counting mail-in ballots three days after Election Day—however the electoral course of itself remained uncompromised. Following the cybersecurity debacle of the 2016 election, together with the Cambridge Analytica information harvesting scandal and pro-Trump disinformation campaigns unfold by Russian trolls, federal companies and social media networks have been able to face down cyber threats this time. 

The U.S. additionally did one thing it has by no means achieved earlier than: it went on the offensive. 

“This time, the NSA (National Security Agency) was given the green light and as soon as intelligence confirmed that [a cyberattack] was going to happen, they went after it and shut it down in advance,” stated Loeffler, who works as a cybersecurity advisor serving to state governments shield their election infrastructure. “That’s what was historic about the 2020 election.” 

There are two parts to cybersecurity: defensive measures and offensive measures. The U.S. federal authorities has traditionally assumed a defensive cybersecurity technique as a result of an offensive cyberattack towards a overseas energy might be misconstrued as a navy assault. But, with a lot at stake this election cycle—7 out of 10 Americans stated it was the most necessary election of their lifetime—the CISA, DHS, FBI, and different federal companies labored to invent new practices to guard election infrastructure from information breaches, poll tampering, and disinformation campaigns. 

Tackling disinformation campaigns

Despite these precautions, there was nonetheless some degree of overseas interference lower than one month earlier than the election. Iranian hackers despatched voter intimidation emails to registered Democratic voters purportedly from the Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascist group that engages in political violence in the U.S. and Canada. The emails demanded that the recipients vote for Donald Trump in the coming election. “Voter registration details were compromised, so you could see people’s names, their likely party affiliation, and things like that,” defined Loeffler. 

In the days previous Election Day, U.S. officers have been involved that in a mid-pandemic election determined primarily by mail-in ballots, Russian brokers might sow disinformation and worry if outcomes weren’t referred to as on the night time of November 3. On Twitter, faux accounts posing as information organizations started declaring election outcomes whereas hundreds of thousands of authorized votes have been nonetheless being counted. Meanwhile, Facebook tightened its insurance policies on election-related disinformation by limiting the attain of deceptive reside movies and posts. 

While these disinformation campaigns seem to not have provoked outright civil unrest as was initially feared, so long as President Trump continues to allege election fraud and refuse to concede, American our on-line world remains to be susceptible to assault from overseas operatives in search of to sow doubt in U.S. election integrity. “If it’s a heavily contested election with lawsuits flying around, the level of attacks might begin to ratchet up because maybe the U.S. is seen as unstable,” stated Loeffler. 

When it involves cybersecurity, the entities most susceptible to assault are these already stricken by excessive ranges of distrust. Record voter turnout this 12 months—the highest since 1908, in line with NPR—exhibits Americans are assured in the safety of their votes and the integrity of the election. “I’m not as worried about the disinformation campaigns right now because I think states have done a really good job showing the integrity of the electoral process,” stated Loeffler. “I think what may happen is a specific attack—not a disinformation program but maybe attacks targeted at certain sectors.”

What cybersecurity professionals discovered after the 2016 election is that some degree of assault is inevitable in any election. While most cyberattacks are focused at presidential elections, Loeffler predicts that cybercriminals might quickly set their sights on midterm elections as effectively, which are usually far much less protected however nonetheless play an important position in figuring out which political social gathering has the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

“State elections are a softer target, so there’s less money they can put into cybersecurity infrastructure,” he defined. “But I think we’re learning pretty quickly as a nation how important representation is within Congress and the Senate.” 

As cyber attackers evolve their methods and the U.S. electoral system continues to be deeply divided, the work of a cybersecurity skilled has by no means been extra necessary, says Loeffler. 

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity to see your field in the headline of a newspaper on a regular basis and understand how the work you do on a daily basis can have real, meaningful outcomes.”

The cybersecurity business is predicted to have 3.5 million excessive paying unfilled jobs by 2021. With Springboard’s complete cybersecurity bootcamp, you’ll work 1:1 with a mentor to be taught key features of knowledge know-how, safety software program, safety auditing, and discovering and fixing malicious code. Modules embody studying sources, follow workout routines, tasks, and career-related coursework.

All this may culminate in a multi-part capstone venture that you could spotlight in your resume for potential employers. You will even get preparation for the CompTIA Security+  certification in addition to non-compulsory bonus prep supplies that will help you go the CompTIA CySA+ certification so that you stand out when making use of for software program/software safety analyst roles.

Springboard’s Cybersecurity Career Track will launch quickly. Join the waitlist right here.


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