The Election of 2016 will forever stand as a symbol of bad cyber security, hacking, fake news, fake social media and fake outs by hackers about who did what to whom, and why and for what purpose? History is still out on the final outcome of the election; in terms of the subsequent announced and unannounced investigations ongoing.
But the questions remain. Not just about this past election cycle and the campaigns that were run but about future elections and future campaigns. Not just politics but also campaigns for awards like The Oscars, or campaigns for board seat fights or takeover proxies.
A prudent businessperson or political leader should be asking herself or himself this very basic risk assessment question:
If the Unites States Federal Election can be manipulated/stolen by a direct social engineering attack which successfully also became case history #1 for both the Russians and the US for intelligence wins and failures --- then what can happen to our election/campaign/voting process?
The obvious second question is:
What kinds of defensive/offensive measures need to be taken in this new fake world where nothing is really as it seems anymore?
People have asked me why I started as early as June 2016 publicly stating on twitter and elsewhere that the Russians were trying to manipulate our electoral process? What clued me in?
The basic answer is simple.
I wasn't looking. Well. Not for nation state manipulation of our elections. One day on twitter I noticed that there were huge numbers of fake accounts that seemed to be dedicated to supporting the then candidate, now President. That set off the cyber security alarm bells and I looked a bit deeper.
When some of them engaged me, I mean (berated) -- I noticed that a large number claimed to be "patriotic Americans" or "former democrats" and that their English was not that good. Also many had Cyrillic alphabet letters often either in the bio or in the header pictures or profile pictures or in the links intermixed with the one sided political bile tweets.
It reminded me, although better, and more refined -- of what I caught onto during the Green Revolution in 2009. This ultimately ended up leading to my speaking about my experience in dealing with the onslaught of propaganda and fake news, fake accounts, fake websites that were used by Iran during this period. I spoke at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC at their "Un-Conference" in December 2009, about the use of social media by nation states for fake accounts and propagation of propaganda.
Because back then, I stumbled onto it on Twitter as well.
So when I saw what happened last year all the warning bells went off, only this time it was amplified by the Presidential election campaign. This media spin cycle and the combination of nation state + amped up media + hacking + selective leaking; along with media culpability as well as any not yet publicly known criminal culpability by the US based conspirators created a mess of chaos that we are still in.
Everyone from The Academy Awards to Corporate Board Rooms need to actively think about and address this fundamental cyber security weakness to the validity of their digital campaigns or elections or voting efforts and what to do now.
Take steps now to create positive and forward thinking approaches and specific steps to fix this now before the black death of digital elections hits your efforts.
Form your own digital campaign protection teams and do it now.