The Stack Archive

Security expert predicts major U.S. election cyber threats

Fri 18 Dec 2015

Political hacking

A critical cyber attack is likely to hit a U.S. election next year, according to security expert Bruce Schneier.

The major campaign will not target the voting system and may not involve the presidential election, but Schneier believes the temptation for hackers to attack politics is too high to resist – even for regional and local races.

“There are going to be hacks that affect politics in the United States,” he said during a webinar hosted by incident response company Resilient Systems, where Schneier is chief technology officer (CTO). He argued that cyber criminals could infiltrate candidate systems and websites, emails, and social media accounts and attempt to locate materials that could be used against them.

According to Schneier, data security and privacy will increasingly enter the political sphere, in terms of hackers’ targets, motives and agenda. He believes attacks such as the gargantuan campaign against Sony, which the U.S. government has linked to North Korea, and the suspected Iranian cyber attacks on Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs ministry, can be pinned to this trend. Schneier suggested that these cases have worked to show attackers the impact that their cyber onslaughts can have.

The threat of political cyber attacks and cyber warfare campaigns has jumped enormously with the declared war on the Islamic State. Top security guru and U.S. Presidential candidate, John McAfee has argued this week that “we have to prepare ourselves” for an enemy that is “far more clever,” than conventional weapons.

He referred to the ‘Amaq News’ smartphone application used for ISIS propaganda, and facilitating denial of service (DDoS) terror attacks. McAfee believes that it was this app that attempted to bring down the internet’s root servers last week – “a massive attack – unprecedented.”

McAfee, who has created his own political group, the Cyber Party, commented in an interview this week: “It’s a very frightening situation […] The next war is not going to be fought with bombs and battleships and airplanes. It’s going to be a cyber war, far more devastating than any nuclear war.”


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