There’s a bit of a hype around cyber security. Technology experts tell of a future ‘doomsday’ where hackers will wreak havoc on company systems, and exploit information for their own benefit. It’s a little bleak, but it’s a reality that many individuals are coming to terms with. As an everyday world citizen that goes about their day, you might believe this threat is far off and can’t possibly affect you. The reality is cyber security is slowly affecting multiple areas of our daily lives. One of the biggest areas is democracy. Cyber attacks have the potential to dampen our voice and attack the very fundamentals of our western society. Our democracy is at risk.

The threat to democracy is unleashing a new wave of cyber security awareness. Governments, politicians, businesses and the like are tuning their ears to the conversation. Just recently, we realized how huge the threat of cyber security is to the well-being of democracy and national security. Reuters recently reported that intelligence leaders are pinging cyber security attacks as a new threat to global security. Everyday life can easily be affected through attacks on electrical, transportation and financial infrastructure.

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Recent Attacks

The recent Russian cyber attack story is going strong in the news. After a series of debate and circling rumors, conclusions are starting to unfold regarding Russian hackers and attacks on government security networks. An official for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported in June that 21 state electoral systems had been targeted during the U.S. 2016 presidential election. However, there still seems to be no evidence of tampering of votes, or suppressed votes in anyway. Where’s the risk? The risk is in outdated systems. In the last election, 25% of American votes went through an electronic voting machine. This technology, overall, is outdated and using old operating systems that can easily be hackable.

The U.S. is not alone in these recent political attacks. In this year’s Dutch elections, one of Holland’s top election information sites went offline due to a powerful DDoS attack. This was just hours before the polls opened. Information is the key to informing and educating the population about voting opportunities. When these information chains are threatened, they’re threatening the very building blocks of democracy.

These recent attacks on voting systems is bringing awareness to the potential disruption of democratic processes. But this leads to other concerns. Our faith in our secured vote falters with every attack on a voting system or a government agency. A 2007 Carbon Black survey found that 27% of U.S. voters consider not voting in future elections due to cyber security concerns. That translates to roughly 58.8 million people that might not be voting in the next presidential election.

Keeping the Voice Heard

Potential upcoming risks could be the release of sensitive documents or tampering with voting files by hackers. Bruce Schneier is a technologist and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He argued that such threats could have a fundamental impact on society, challenge democracy as we know it, and undermine national stability and security. The good news, awareness is building steam. Lawmakers and politicians see the importance of healthy cyber security and its influence on democracy. Political and private organizations alike are standing up to build a stronger security infrastructure. European Agency for Network and Information Security urged politicians to take the steps necessary to strengthen cyber security practices.

Taking Action on Global Cyber Security

The next step is action. The cry is being heard to protect democracy. Leaders need to take action to develop healthy cyber security practices to protect voting and democratic information in the upcoming elections. This can be done in many ways. The encrypting of communications is a fundamental first step in reestablishing voters trust. Solid financial funds need to be contributed to harden the protection against cyber attacks. Further, educating the public, building awareness of social engineering and email phishing is key. Information learned and cyber breach incidents need to be shared, learned from and patched to avoid future attacks. Lastly, a solid commitment to research and investment in cyber security is the next step in defeating this threat.

Cyber attacks are targeting us closer and closer to home. It’s time to realize the potential threat to democracy, and take the steps necessary to insure its continued growth. Stay connected with leading information in cyber and information security by signing up for our E-Newsletter below.