[Image courtesy of MTVGeek!]
Way back in July, I wrote about the exploits of a “hacktivist” named Abhaxas, who hacked into Florida’s election systems in order to demonstrate the need for better information security.
In that post, I talked about the need for the field of elections to recognize the the need to insulate elections against outside threats, especially as jurisdictions increasingly move to more sophisticated election systems that rely on the latest developments in technology.
This weekend’s news offers a reminder of the importance of taking such threats seriously, as the international group Anonymous – which has mobilized in support of WikiLeaks and taken on Sony about the right of users to run “homebrew” software on PlayStation 3 consoles – has allegedly threatened to “peacefully shut down” the January 3 Iowa caucuses in protest of a political system that it says protects the wealthy.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Iowa GOP is scrambling to protect its system of collecting and reporting caucus results after Anonymous’ threat, which appears in a two-minute video.
While it isn’t clear whether or not the video is genuine, the lesson for the field is the same. Any effort to expand the use of technology in the election field must be accompanied by not just the willingness but the ability to defend such systems against failure or attack.
Today’s technology – including the Internet – offers tremendous potential to revolutionize the election process. But all of us who care about elections need to remember that such technology has also geometrically increased potential threats. Consequently, we must be certain that our efforts to aid voters don’t end up making it easier for those who would disrupt the process (for whatever reason, principled or not) – or if they do, that the field has professionals and technologists who are not only aware of, but prepared to meet, the threat.