Network Security

Presidential candidates must fight cyberattacks

When the likes of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney announced their intentions to run for president back in February, it seemed a bit too early to ponder the attributes of the many contenders hoping to lead the U.S. government. After all, none of us will cast votes in our primary elections or caucuses until early next year.

Yet, as Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Obama intensify their sparring, while Ron Paul persists in shocking his Republican counterparts during televised debates, hackers reportedly are planning to enlist a range of virtual methods to impact presidential elections next year.

Some IT security researchers stated recently that online criminals are sure to enlist keyloggers, phishing and other methods to either thieve contributions from online campaign sites or, more unexpectedly, harass voters.

According to a recent online news report from SC Magazine's Frank Washkuch Jr., Symantec researcher Oliver Friedrichs noted that keyloggers installed on the PCs of campaign staff could lead to the gathering of constituents' sensitive information. These details, in turn, eventually could be enlisted as ransom to sway votes, for example, or be used in other ways to damage candidates' reputations.

Additionally, because more and more presidential hopefuls are using the internet to communicate with and collect funds from supporters, hackers may employ crimeware to divert campaign donations to other candidates, said researchers. This, of course, could chip away at voter confidence in online campaigns and even the contenders spearheading them.

Of course, cyberattacks of any sort are nothing new. Maybe the vectors of attack, but that's just because both organizations and individuals — like presidential candidates — continue to enlist today's myriad technical applications to gain mainstream support or simply get the word out about their offerings. As a result, cyberattacks of all kinds are growing in both frequency and innovation. During critical political elections, then, it should come as no surprise that individuals looking to affect the overall outcome will enlist whatever tools are available to them to meet their ultimate goals.

Those running for office should do the same. They must either become a lot more internet and IT security savvy or surround themselves with experts who are. Without taking the steps to safeguard their networks and websites, educate their staff, and secure their supporters' private information, presidential hopefuls may see voters' growing online support for them diminish.  

Illena Armstrong is SC Magazine's U.S. editor-in-chief.

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