Your voting booth might — or might not — be safe from hackers. But imagine a cyberattack that keeps you from going to your polling station in the first place. Security experts warn that critical infrastructure systems in the United States are vulnerable to crippling cyberattacks designed to suppress voter turnout by disrupting systems that cities and towns rely on. “If ransomware hits, what’s the backup plan to allow people to vote? Do we extend it a day? Do we hold off the tally of the votes? Do we take absentee ballots? What do we do?” said Fortalice Solutions CEO and former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton.
Nuclear reactors, water treatment facilities, manufacturing centers, emergency response services and a dozen other systems are “essential services” and the backbone of the American economy, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Cybersecurity experts warn that hacks targeting critical infrastructure like these systems could disrupt an election by preventing voters in key districts from getting to the polls or accessing election information.
“[The vulnerability is] the light you turn on. It’s the water you drink. It’s the toilets you flush,” said Sergio Caltagirone, a former NSA cyber-defense expert and director of threat intelligence at Dragos, a cybersecurity firm. “Industrial control is about people’s lives, fundamentally.”