Global elections are here, and so are those aiming to sabotage them

Election-related malicious activity in cyberspace is skyrocketing.

This year promises to be one of the busiest ever in global politics, with 64 countries and the European Union gearing up to hold elections. The US presidential election will potentially have the most significant geopolitical outcome, and malicious actors are preying on digital infrastructures to cause damage.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) recently released a report outlining the diverse array of threats facing election integrity. These threats span five primary categories: cyber operations targeting election infrastructure, attacks on political parties, campaigns, and officials, covert actions to sway political entities, efforts to manipulate public opinion and sow division, and attempts to influence policymakers and the public.

Beyond cyber espionage, threat actors are aiming to undermine trust in elections by engaging in operations designed to disrupt and shape global public opinion.

Cybersecurity firm Resecurity has identified a growing trend of malicious cyber activity targeting sovereign elections in more than 17 countries globally.

Massive data breaches

According to the firm, personal voter data can be weaponized to destabilize and make an impact on elections. The previous years have given an insight into this, with massive data leaks related to elections occurring worldwide.

For example, 6.8 million Indonesian voter records related to the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election were leaked on the dark web. Indonesia is approaching its presidential elections this February.

A personal data leak of 6.4 million Israeli voters from 2021 has been reused multiple times amidst Israel’s war on Palestine, with the data weaponized to target Israeli military personnel and doxx their family members in 2023.

Threat actors have also leaked more than 9 million records related to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party. While the data is from 2016, it was reposted by threat actors just recently.

In July 2023, threat actors released a dump of Mexican voter data, which included information about victims' political affiliations. It's crucial to highlight that these threat actors are actively attempting to gain access to Mexico's National Electoral Institute (INE) database, which holds the personally identifiable information (PII) of 91 million citizens.

In September 2023, the UK Electoral Commission faced a major cybersecurity breach that resulted in the exposure of data belonging to potentially up to 40 million citizens. Over 60GB of sensitive electoral information was allegedly stolen in the Philippines as the country approaches elections in May.

In October 2023, the gang leaked data from the District of Columbia Board of Elections (DCBOE), claiming to have accessed the personal information of 600,000 D.C voters.

Interference by cybercriminals

Data leaks are not the only threats. Cybercriminals might try to interfere with digital infrastructure as well to target elections.

In February 2023, candidates and voters in Nigeria expressed frustration some 30 hours after the general election after the country’s election results portal failed to display results from several states.

In August, Ecuador faced a cyberattack that affected the absentee voting system of its national election setup. This attack, occurring in a country already grappling with drug cartel-related violence, hindered many of its 120,000 overseas voters from accessing the voting system before the polls closed.

According to reporting by Politico, Taiwan experienced a barrage of cyberattacks just days before the country's presidential election in January. Experts attributed these attacks to China and noted that they represented an unprecedented and highly sophisticated level of interference in Taiwan's election process.

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