Alex Stamos, former chief of security at Facebook, says the US is not prepared for the 2018 midterms. In an interview with NBC, Stamos said that the US has failed to take aggressive steps to fix the clear vulnerabilities of election attacks and hacking. He also noted that hackers are learning and deploying new tricks in their endeavor and US authorities have failed to adapt to this. The statement comes as the US gets ready for what’s expected to be a hotly contested midterm election in less than a month.
Russian hackers were able to hack into the DNC during the 2016 election campaign and they managed to release crucial documents that may have swayed the poll in Trump’s favor. Stamos said that such a hack can easily happen again seeing that very little has been done to address the systemic weaknesses that caused it in the first place. Stamos left Facebook in August after spending three years as the company’s chief security officer. He also noted that there was clear evidence that Facebook had taken important steps to prevent its platform from being abused by hackers to influence the election.
However, it’s very likely that the adversaries will come again with new tricks to circumvent the safeguards already in place. Tech companies, the US government, and cyber-security experts have been on high alert over the last few weeks as the country gears up for the November 6 midterms. The hope is that any attempts to spread misinformation and disenfranchise voters will be detected soon enough before it becomes a big deal. There’s also increased attention on campaign tech infrastructure to make sure any hacking attempts are rebuffed.
But Stamos believes that even with these measures there’s still so much vulnerability. For instance, the former chief security officer at Facebook noted that most campaigns have failed to upgrade their tech infrastructure to more modern and secure systems that can fend off any hacking attempts. But some tech companies are trying to do their part.
Facebook, for instance, has taken a number of steps to ensure it’s ready. The social media platform said that it’s now better prepared to identify foreign-led campaigns that are designed to influence people’s opinions through disinformation. Just recently, the company also removed thousands of fake accounts linked to a Russian hacking group blamed largely for influencing elections in 2016.
Facebook has also removed US-based pages for what it called hate speech, misinformation and general misconduct against its community rules. So far, over 500 US pages have been removed. Alex Stamos is not the only one who has expressed concern over US readiness to deal with potential election interference. Former intelligence chiefs have also warned that the White House doesn’t have a coherent long-term strategy to address the issue at the moment. The partisan fights over Russia’s election meddling in 2016 have also made it impossible for any civil debate on cyber-security and election interference to flourish. There’s a risk too that the threat from Russia could also become more domestic as local hackers try to explore the same schemes to influence election campaigns in the future.