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Let’s Destroy Democracy

Election security through an adversary’s eyes

This post was authored by Matt Olney.

Executive summary

Over the past few years, Cisco Talos has increasingly been involved in election security research and support, most recently supporting the Security Service of Ukraine in their efforts to secure the two Ukrainian presidential elections in April. Experiences like these, along with discussions with state and local elections officials and other parties, have helped us better understand the election security space. These discussions are especially important to us because combining their expertise with our experience in the security space — and specifically our understanding of some of the actors that may be involved — is a powerful model to achieve the ultimate goal of providing free and fair elections.

Based on our research and real-world experience working to secure elections, we have recommendations for several different groups, each of which have a role to play in working against attackers who would interfere in free and fair elections:

  • Everyone should understand that interference in, and attacks on, the election system are part of a larger, coordinated attack on the very concept of free democracies.
  • Security improvements in election security can best be achieved by combining the expertise of election officials with that of traditional security practitioners.
  • Election officials should extract maximum value from this period of heightened interest in election security.
  • Security practitioners should recognize the specialized nature of the elections environment and be careful to provide the best advice for that unique environment.
  • Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that faith in democratic institutions is reinforced and that social divides aren’t unnecessarily aggravated.