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Fear of Cyber Attacks Affects Trust in American Democracy

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Election Day concerns

As Election Day nears, more than 15 million voters expressed concerns about the security of the U.S. voting system, according to a recent study conducted by Carbon Black.

Though there are no indications of compromised or tampered-with technology in previous elections, a number of other incidents show that influencing or altering this year’s election is a very real possibility. Recent hacks against the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and election databases solidify these fears.

Voters losing faith

The study found that more than half, 56 percent, of U.S. voters have concerns that a cyber attack will affect their vote at this year’s presidential election.

These fears amplify when voters use electronic voting machines, as the study showed 58 percent of voters feel these types of machines will be hacked at some point during the election season. The study also revealed that nearly 25 percent of the United States will use electronic voting machines on November 8, when the next president will be elected. This places about 55 million voters at the potential risk of cyber attacks.

Vulnerabilities in the system

The biggest reason for these vulnerabilities is the use of outdated systems. The biggest culprit is perhaps the “direct-recording electronic” (DRE) machine, which is still utilizes the Windows XP operating system. According to the study, there has not been a patch pushed out to this operating systems since April of 2014.

Results of the study also indicated three other major vulnerabilities:

  • The link of which electronic voting machines can be manipulated to alter votes.
  • The ability to compromise voter-registration databases.
  • The prospect that voting systems and process can be shut down, delayed or restricted.

These identified vulnerabilities potentially place the trust of the country’s democracy at risk. According to Carbon Black, 1 in 5 voters may not vote in this upcoming election. This means that more than 15 million voters may choose against going to the polls on Election Day.

Adam Herndon Adam served ten years in the United States Army primarily in the Operations and Physical Security realm. His tour allowed him to serve in the DC Metro area as the Operations for a Military Police Company and a Sniper/Observer team member for the Military District of Washington's Special Reaction Team, Hawaii as Operations for a Brigade Combat Team, and Fort Leavenworth as the Operations for the Department of Emergency Services as well as a Physical Security Specialist. Adam now works for the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, where Critical Thinking and Group Think Mitigation are taught in hopes of bettering the decision making process and the development of better plans and ideas.