It’s hard to imagine that people thousands of miles away are able to sit at a computer and change the course of an election. But as we’ve seen in the United States, that’s not just a troubling concept, it’s a startling reality that has profound implications for voters, politicians, political parties and the media. When it comes to Canada, most experts agree it’s not a matter of if or even when (we experienced some limited interference in 2015), but of how badly nation-states, organized crime, activists and thrill seekers will want to sow chaos, confusion and manipulation.
There are three primary ways to hack a modern election process. The first is to target the electoral system itself, by, for example, finding and exploiting software or hardware vulnerabilities in voting machines. In addition to trying to hack voting machines, attackers often attempt to gain access to voter lists in order to send disinformation about voting location, documentation requirements or other misdirection in an attempt to suppress the vote.
… protecting democracy and elections from hacking means taking a careful look at any new e-voting (online or voting machine) approaches and questioning whether the risks are worth any perceived gains or whether the risks can be appropriately mitigated so that voters can have full faith and confidence in the electoral system.
For now, this means that until cybersecurity and digital identity improve dramatically in Canada, we all should be extraordinarily wary of any proposals for online voting over the internet.