The cyber verse has been getting increasingly more political. With the funding of nations, today’s cyber criminals are a far cry from the days of basement hackers. Even the lines of what would and would not be considered criminal activities continue to blur (which is fortunate, since out-of-nation cyber crime is virtually on prosecutable anyway).
With such a bleak backdrop, we take another light-hearted look at this week in the web-o-sphere.
The White-Hot Road to the White House
Scandals and elections are really nothing new. If we weren’t discussing Nixon sweating on camera, Gore inventing the internet, and faulty butterfly ballots, what would we be talking about? Coke versus Pepsi?
But perhaps there has never been such a white hot presidential election as the current Clinton vs Trump vs Shall-we-vote-third-party debate going on in America right now. A fault of the hashtag era? Perhaps. Certainly the larger-than-life characters of the presidential debates fuel the heated discussions. All of that is to be expected, given the candidates and the state of the union.
A little less expected? All this hacking! We’ve been following the stories for weeks in our cyber reviews. Now the water cooler talk has turned to the election. Could the election results themselves get hacked? Here are a few possible scenarios:
1. The results of the election get tampered in some way.
Likelihood: pretty unlikely. Results are tallied locally. In many cases the equipment is incredibly low-tech (read: too old to be hackable). Possibly a disgruntled poll worker could tamper with results on a single thumb drive, but for that to have any genuine impact on the count it would take a coordinated effort.
2. All this hacking causes voter insecurity.
Likelihood: it could happen. The mainstream media feeds on the fear of viewers. Could that translate into panic at the polls? There are nations where that happens, but the United States democratic system has been touted as the gold standard for more than 100 years. That could change with this election.
3. Some small abnormality could cause panic.
Likelihood: pretty likely, at this point. Again with the fear-mongering thing, if one disgruntled employee, or one ballot abnormality, or one social media troll got picked up my mainstream media, it could cause panic and possibly even a massive recount or election delay.
If you’re into spectator sports, pick your favorite libation and cue up your election drinking game, we’re in for a doozy.
Who’s Hacking US?
So why is the possibility/probability of an election-day hack higher than ever, anyway? This has been an unprecedented year for political hacking, that’s why. The White House this week finally officially stated what experts have been saying for months: Russia is hacking US politics.
Of course, the Kremlin continues to deny the hacks. Why would they admit it? With code in Cyrillic and markings of state-sponsored attacks, the hacks have been widespread throughout the political arena. Top hits like Hillary Clinton’s emails and Colin Powell’s personal correspondence have made headlines. Insiders say there could be dozens more that have been hacked, but are under no obligation to reveal it (and face the PR wrath).
While WikiLeaks has released some content, chances are we do not know the end game of such hacks. Could be that Russia just wants the data: intelligence gathering is often done without immediate reward, since the information itself could have future value.
So only time will tell, when it comes to US politics.
Cyber Warfare and Surgical Strikes
In another part of the world the cyber-political game packs even more heat: as in actual warfare. What likely started as India crossing the Line of Control for so called “surgical strikes” on Pakistan-occupied land (Kashmir), has resulted in what appears to be cyber retaliation.
We first reported on the takeover of the National Green Tribunal of India. To date, approximately 7,000 Indian websites have been hacked. The goal seems to be to freeze cyber activity within India. Indian hackers, not be outdone, have hacked into a large number of Pakistan government websites, with ransomware (where the website is encrypted and you have to pay, in this case in Bitcoin, to regain your own data).
Whether or not you live in or have even visited the Indian subcontinent, the situation could have global implications. Many nations use cyber espionage; are cyber surgical strikes the future of cyber warfare?
Politics Got You Down?
All that talk of cyber politics got you down? You could always use that drinking game link a little early.