Global Cyber Alliance – Election Season Cybersecurity

Author: Megan Stifel
Executive Director, Americas
Global Cyber Alliance

Malicious actors have targeted elections over the years, and 2020 is no different. Whether it be through robocalls, voter registration scams, fraudulent campaign solicitations, or misinformation, actors have a range of targets to threaten the integrity of elections. Despite the breadth of targets, there is much that can be done to prevent these actors from having an impact on election outcomes. Protecting the digital elements of the election process is central to this effort so voters can have confidence in all aspects of the election. 

There are a number of resources to support election administrators in their cybersecurity efforts. These include both policy and operational resources to enhance email and social media accounts and website security, ensure critical systems are up-to-date and backed up, and prevent election staff from visiting malicious websites. 

Many of these resources can also be used by voters to protect themselves as they seek information about the upcoming election. In particular, voters should ensure they are receiving information from verified sources. 

    • To begin, voters can find their state’s official election website via this page maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration or this page supported by the U.S. Vote Foundation.
      • These pages are the most reliable resources to determining voting times and other information about vote casting. 
    • To avoid visiting malicious websites while searching for other election-related information, voters can use a protective DNS service like Quad9 on their devices. A protective DNS service uses information from a range of sources to identify domains hosting websites that could contain malware or other cybercrime-related activities.
      • It is also important to look for websites with up-to-date certificates, denoted by a lock box before the URL, e.g., 🔒  
    • To ensure voters are viewing candidates’ and election offices’ official social media accounts, they can review the social media site’s guidance for obtaining a verified account, such as Twitter’s and Facebook’s
      • Additionally, using two-factor authentication for all accounts helps prevent unauthorized access to them, which could result in someone posting inaccurate information.

When viewing information online, it’s important to trust but verify. The steps noted above, together with election offices using resources such as the Global Cyber Alliance Cybersecurity Toolkit for Elections and campaigns using resources such as Defending Digital Campaigns, in addition to government resources, are important elements to enhance trust in our elections processes and confidence in the outcome.