Election hacking a global occurrence: cybersecurity expert

MANILA Elections worldwide were being hacked by those who wanted to cling on to power, a cybersecurity expert said.

Speaking at the Pilipinas Con 2018, a Forum on Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, at the Enderun Colleges, McKinley Hill in Taguig City Wednesday, Marc Goodman, a futurist and best-selling book author, said that hacking the elections had been reported not only in developing countries like the Philippines but even in developed countries like his country, the United States.

He cited the vulnerabilities of the election system especially in this age of automation where it was easier to cheat with just one press of the button in the voting machines.

He, however, stressed that voting machines were hackable, citing a recent DEF CON event where hackers tried to hack 25 different voting machines to show how hackable they were.

In that DEF CON, they were able to break into 25 different vote counting machines remotely and directly which means that every single counting device is hackable, he pointed out.

DEF CON is the world's longest running and largest underground hacking conference.

Goodman is author of the best-selling book Future Crimes. He is also the founder of Future Crimes Institute and chairman of Policy, Law and Ethics at Silicon Valley's Singularity University.

He then said that in the Philippines, the susceptibility of its elections was established when Filipino hackers committed the biggest government data breach in history in April 2016 or one month after the May 2016 national elections.

Here in the Philippines there has been hacking of the elections as well when in April 2016, the website of the Commission on Elections was taken over by the Philippine group of Anonymous to show how hackable the elections were. Over 55 million voter's data were leaked, 200k emails leaked, 2.3 million passport details leaked and 15.7 million fingerprints are now available in the dark web. That was the largest government data breach in the world so far and it was carried out by a 23-year old Filipino, he pointed out.

He said that the US is also facing a hacking controversy with respect to their elections with the intelligence community concluding that the Russian government had interfered in their elections through propaganda.

We are also faced with hacking our democracy with the intelligence community concluding with a high degree of certainty that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin interfered with our elections by propaganda and manipulating social media, he said.

Goodman also said that for as long as there were those who wanted to stay in power, there would always be election hacking as they would employ all available means to cling to their posts. But the bigger challenge, he said, was that governments were still ill-equipped to cope with the ever advance cyber criminals.

I think governments around the world will struggle on this more and more because people in power use everything available to them to fight their enemies and protect themselves from being removed from power, he said.

He also said that hacking is going to get more sophisticated because of the exponential growth of technology. Governments like Philippines are however not well prepared to cope with such growth in cybercrime.

Cybercrime has been growing exponentially but our governments, policy makers are on plateau, he added.

When asked what are the tell-tale signs of election fraud or hacking, Goodman said if something was bizarre in the system, there was probably something going on.

This is the reason why vigilance plays a crucial role in making elections honest and credible.

He then called on the Filipinos to take a more active part in making the election system more transparent and hold government officials in charge of the elections accountable for violations in the system.

Democracy is always a good idea and we should protect it by holding our leaders accountable. Citizen activism is key and I encourage you to come together and be vigorous in your pursuit to fight irregularities that threaten your democracy, he stated.

Goodman also said that cybercrime, like technology, had grown exponentially in the last several years that according to a Juniper research data, cybercrime was going to cost businesses all over the world USD2 trillion by 2019.

The threat in cybercrime is growing exponentially but our defenses are not and that's what we need to fix, he stressed.

In order to protect the people, businesses and governments, Goodman cited the need to invest in trustworthy machines and implement a cybersecurity plan to back up the system.

We have to think like hackers in order to protect ourselves and a cybersecurity fire drill so we will know what to do when we are under threat, he said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency