Cybersecurity has become an increasingly important concern in the 2016 election due to a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee over the summer and the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump has even questioned whether the election could be rigged.
Jacob Smith, a UNC Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science, said if the election were to be rigged it would most likely be by an outside actor.
“Outside actors are a much greater concern,” Smith said. “Russia is the concern, especially after the DNC hack.”
Recently, Russian-backed hackers used various digital methods to infiltrate the DNC network system. Michael Reiter, a professor in the UNC Department of Computer Science, said there are many methods of hacking, including keylogging malware to record typed information, backdoors to allow access to a system and denial of service attacks which deny service to the original user.
“I think there’s no doubt that Russia and Putin prefer Donald Trump in the election,” Smith said. “I think they probably feel that Donald Trump would be less tough on them — also displeasure with Clinton as Secretary of State and to the extent to which in term of the ways she dealt with Russia — they feel that they will get a more fair hearing from Donald Trump.”
Reiter said there are a wide variety of cyber threats that could affect voting and the election including physical methods. Individuals could threaten voting machines not connected to the internet by gaining physical proximity to the voting facility, he said.
“It’s very difficult to scale that kind of attack,” Reiter said. “If I really wanted to influence the election I would have to change a lot of these machines presumably or I would have to manipulate the computers where the votes are collected — some central database or something like that.”
Hillary Clinton has a technology platform on her website which outlines her positions on cybersecurity. The platform said Clinton would support expanded investment in cybersecurity technologies.
“Cybersecurity is essential to our economic and national security, and it will only become increasingly important as more commercial, consumer and government devices are networked,” the platform said.
Donald Trump does not have an official platform which outlines his stance on information security or personal privacy.
Yadavan Varatharajah, a network engineer for Cisco, said it is generally dangerous for the public not to care about cybersecurity.
“I think cybersecurity is something that people shouldn’t just be carefree about,” he said. “With every network you have you should be making sure it’s secure.”
Cybersecurity is a big issue due to people not having properly secured networks, Varatharajah said.
“You are not going to be able to stop (hackers),” he said. “It’s like stopping a robber. You’re not going to stop them from stealing.”