Hacks, sata leaks, and disinformation have all added to the chaos of one of the most contentious elections in history. US intelligence agencies have even accused Russia of perpetrating some portion of the digital meddling. And now reports indicate that officials are preparing for worst-case cybersecurity scenarios on November 8. But what might those election day digital threats realistically look like? Government officials and the media have been worried over the possibilities of attacks that might hack voting machines, leak last-minute November surprises about candidates, or even sabotage the power grid. But ask the cybersecurity community, and they’ll tell you the easiest way to hack the election is a simpler, two-pronged attack: Black out sources of real information and spread disinformation. “They’re going to try to influence this election further using a combination of things like additional leaks, DDoS attacks, and targeting the media,” says Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at the security firm CrowdStrike. “What better way to destabilize a country without a shot being fired than by leveraging these various tools to play with people?”
… Even if the voting process isn’t attacked or hindered, determined trolls could still spread rumors on social media that things have gone horribly wrong and that polling places are closed, or create fake new stories on sham sites warning that the election results are tainted. “The Russians have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Twitter bots that they control that they can use to advance different messages,” Crowdstrike’s Meyers says. “And if they can plant fake stories in the media, that’s going to cause all kinds of confusion. It certainly helps that one of the candidates is saying that it’s rigged already anyway.”
Twitter has been struggling to keep up with problematic disinformation campaigns on the social network meant to discourage minority voters from getting to the polls. And forged documents that appear to come from a senator on the Senate Homeland Security Committee have also been circulating, including a fabricated warning of a cyber attack changing vote counts.