Cybersecurity, a major issue in the electoral process
At the polls, citizens.
To your keyboards, citizens.
Soon enough, the first scenario will give way entirely to the second.
Being able to vote from anywhere, on Canadian soil, abroad, without even having to travel… It’s a dream that many people have. But before we can completely replace the paper and pencil with a keyboard and a mouse, we still have many challenges to overcome.
Why is election cybersecurity an issue?
We live in a large global village. Our food travels thousands of miles to get to us just like our other goods. We exchange with people from all over the world in one click. We consume, we sell, we buy, we view, we discuss. We are here and everywhere at the same time.
Even if the Internet borders are increasingly transparent and tenuous, the fact remains that in the real world, borders are still there.
Policies implemented in Canada have an impact on other countries. And the reverse is also true. We are interconnected, for better or for worse.
The worst part is we don’t live in a world where everyone spreads the power of love and friendship! We have allies, we have competitors, and we have adversaries.
The interference of other countries in our democracy and in our social cohesion, weakens us on the world stage. And since an election is probably one of the best opportunities to destabilize a country, you have to be prepared for the possibility that someone attacks this process.
According to the Canadian Center for Cyber Security, the majority of these cyber threats have been sponsored by states and the evidence tends to show that Russia, China and Iran are those who are most inclined to use this kind of technique.
Also according to the Canadian Center for Cyber Security, cyberattacks on the democratic process would aim to:
- Undermining public confidence in the electoral process
- Creating fake news and polarizing political discourse
- Get people to vote less
- Undermining public trust in elected officials
Why is it complicated to set up?
Let’s start with a very simple observation: What man creates can be undone.
When talking about cybersecurity, this rule always applies.
Even worse, cybersecurity measures must be easy to set up, but difficult to hack. Both must also be simple to use for as many people as possible, with various tech skills ranging from the seasoned user to the neophyte, while being robust enough so that the protection is not easily broken by hackers.
This buffer zone is difficult to reach and the perfect solution will probably never exist.
The next elections
The next provincial election will take place on October 3, 2022. Currently, there is no indication that Internet voting will be accessible to the population. As in the 2021 federal election, traditional methods of voting will still be relevant.
This does not mean that nothing is being done to modernize our process. In 2019, Elections Quebec held a consultation on this issue to get the pulse of the population.
But just because we don’t vote over the internet doesn’t mean our elections can’t be tampered with by outside players. Every day we communicate on the Internet, we follow the news via our screens and our opinion is influenced by what we consume.
Cyber threats today are much more subtle than you might think.