It sounds like a scene from a Hollywood thriller. A nefarious foreign entity hacks the 2016 United States presidential election, tampering the results to ensure their favored candidate takes the highest office of the free world.
But truth is stranger than fiction. Just as no corporation is immune from cyber crime, neither is the government. Let’s take a closer look at why a presidential election hack is plausible and what that means for your business as well as society at large.
IT Security Is About More Than Budget
The government certainly has the budget to take every step necessary to create and preserve a secure network, but it’s easier than one might think to overlook a vulnerability. In some ways, large organizations are more susceptible to these lapses than their smaller counterparts because there are so many people involved, vast networks to protect, and ample opportunity for miscommunication and missteps.
Look at the 2015 security breach at Target, the largest of its kind to affect the retail industry with more than 40 million credit card numbers compromised. In the wake of the crime, we learned the culprit was basic malware, and Target’s security specialists flagged it, but the retailer failed to properly respond to the warnings.
It is also incredibly difficult to protect a business from a hacker who has an intimate familiarity with an entity’s infrastructure and security configurations. The FBI reports the electoral system is secure at a national level, but it is vulnerable to individual incidences. For example, cyber criminals could replace a booth at a polling station with one equipped with a chip that fraudulently alters data. Or they could hack into any number of local polling stations that allow the transfer of election results via a network to falsify vote tallies. A big budget doesn’t guarantee an organization makes all the right moves nor does it make it invincible to determined and informed cyber criminals.
Are Cyber Attacks a New Threat to Data Security?
For as long as we’ve had software and for as long as valuable data has been stored digitally, cyber crime has posed a danger. Technology has made tremendous advancements, but as our lives become increasingly digital, we become more vulnerable. We have more to lose, and criminals continue to hone their craft.
The frequency and size of security breaches continues to grow. It is estimated by one former Yahoo executive that as many as many as 500 million people were affected by a security breach at Yahoo, in which personal information like phone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and security questions were stolen. Never before have we seen an attack of this magnitude on a single site.
Cyber security issues have always existed, but with more high-value data available—like the results of a presidential election—the stakes are elevated.
What Does Government Security Have to Do with the IT Security of Your Small Business?
Technology plays a big part in our lives, powering everything from communication to driverless cars to a new generation of “smart-home” appliances. Naturally, we face a new crop of security risks and challenges. It doesn’t matter if it’s software powering the electoral system or your local business, there could always be a vulnerability. Threat-free software simply doesn’t exist, and we can’t always predict the problems and vulnerabilities that come with new developments.
You must take steps to protect your business and adopt best practices. Make sure you have a correctly configured firewall in place, change your passwords regularly, use routinely updated security software on all your devices, and back up critical data.
Just because the elections could be hacked doesn’t mean they will be, but the government would be foolish not to take precautions. Your business needs to do the same. Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company, can help. Give us a call at 314.394.3001 to discuss your business’s approach to IT security.