America’s political system will remain vulnerable to cyberattacks and infiltration from foreign and domestic enemies unless the government plugs major holes and commits millions of dollars in the coming years. Despite expectations that the U.S. on Thursday will slap Russia with retaliatory measures for hacking the recent presidential race, major political, financial and logistical obstacles stand in the way of ensuring that hackers are locked out of future elections, not to mention an incoming administration that is dismissive about the government’s own allegations that Russia pulled off a widespread hacking campaign that fueled Americans’ wariness of the political process and possibly helped President-elect Donald Trump win the White House.
Political campaigns and organizations are just starting to take cybersecurity seriously; states are scraping together money to replace aging, hack-prone voting machines; and officials everywhere are trying to figure out how they can better protect a sprawling election apparatus that often relies on local personnel without the advanced knowledge — or appropriate resources — to digitally secure their systems.
Meanwhile, security experts suspect hackers and other digital foes are already looking at ways to gain an advantage in future elections, whether it’s the 2018 midterms or the 2020 presidential race.
“I hope we have the foresight to start fixing these problems now,” said Tony Cole, the global government chief technical officer with FireEye, a leading digital security firm. “We need to think about our adversaries. If they wanted to influence our election, did they start four years ago? They’ve got all the time in the world to actually decide what path they want to go through.”