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Cybersecurity risks increase ahead of US presidential election

The U.S. has already deployed cybersecurity advisors across the country to support the effort.

Joe Biden's reelection campaign is targeting younger voters on social media
Joe Biden's reelection campaign is targeting younger voters on social media - © AFP/File Julia Nikhinson
Joe Biden's reelection campaign is targeting younger voters on social media - © AFP/File Julia Nikhinson

There are concerns that advanced social engineering in the form of false propaganda on social media will tilt the 2024 election. In response, the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has said that the protection of the upcoming elections is a top priority.

One concern is with deepfakes, which can greatly impact voter influence. Another threat involves targeted social media campaigns. In addition, voting equipment is at a potential risk from hackers.

In response to such threats, the Agency has already deployed cybersecurity advisors across the country to support the effort.

Commenting on the benefits and risks of AI, the Agency indicates: “AI capabilities present opportunities for increased productivity, potentially enhancing both election security and election administration. However, these capabilities also carry the increased potential for greater harm, as malicious actors, including foreign nation state actors and cybercriminals, could leverage these same capabilities for nefarious purposes.”

Outside of the government, academic centres are also seeking to repel any external interference in the election. For example, the USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative is a new non-partisan independent project, supported by Google, to help protect campaigns and elections.

Such approaches have many challenges ahead. Another academic institution observes that in “the United States, elections are among the most complex and decentralized operations in either the public or private sectors.”

US President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on February 6, 2024 in Washington, DC — © AFP Mandel NGAN

This means, at a time when digital threats are increasingly sophisticated, robust cyber security solutions are needed to protect both the critical election infrastructure and the integrity of elections itself.

According to Jared Smith, Distinguished Engineer, R&D Strategy, SecurityScorecard, in contact with Digital Journal, nation-state threat actors will exploit the power of deepfakes, LLMs, and AI voice impersonations to conduct widespread social engineering attacks leading up to the 2024 U.S. presidential elections.

Smith expresses the concern: “In the lead-up to the 2024 US presidential elections, a new era of misinformation will increase public distrust. Nation-state threat actors are embracing cutting-edge technologies, such as deepfakes, LLM-created phishing emails and smishing texts, and AI voice impersonations, to supercharge their disinformation campaigns.”

He adds: “These coordinated efforts will usher in an era of social engineering at scale, creating highly realistic misinformation that blurs the line between fact and fiction. Prepare for a battle against deceptive manipulation like never before.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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