The Pentagon has launched a preemptive strike against the Russian hackers who may have attacked the 2016 presidential election with social media influence campaigns. Numerous initiatives, including Harvard University’s Defending Digital Democracy Project, have educated officials on how to fortify elections against cyberattacks and encouraged social media companies to take down fake accounts. Despite these efforts, 67 percent of Americans consider that a foreign influence campaign, either by Russia or other governments, during the midterm elections is “very or somewhat” plausible. Their worry might have some basis. There’s another threat that few have worked to defend against: malware, or malicious software, designed to steal, deny or alter information. And our research strongly suggests that these attacks are underway in U.S. swing states, as we explain below.
Malware has been used to attack other nations’ elections
Malware seeks to steal, block or alter data. It’s the kind of code used to steal your passwords or credit card numbers. And it can also steal your vote.
It’s recently been used in a number of other countries. With Comodo Cybersecurity malware detection data, for instance, we measured the spread of different malware types before and after the 2018 presidential elections in Turkey. The figure below shows the order in which various types of malware appear — which tells us how they are working to influence an election.