A true democracy hinges on the public’s ability to vote and then have their votes counted accurately. After the hacking issues during the 2016 election, and with the 2020 election cycle in full swing, concerns are mounting, St. Petersburg College’s Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Security Officer David Creamer recently published an article in Education Technology Insights that addresses ways that higher education institutions can avoid being targets for election hackers.
In the article, titled Election Cyber Security – Considerations for Educational Institutions, Creamer offers insight on how educational institutions can prevent security breaches that interrupt the democratic process during voting season.
“We indeed have a significant role to play addressing cyber security vulnerabilities and protecting against threats to our democratic process,” he wrote.
Noting that higher education institutions often serve as polling precincts, Creamer suggests ways that they can ensure that no tampering is done to voting equipment. He also notes scams via voting campaigns, which can trick students into making themselves ineligible to vote.
“Imitation registration campaigns, both on campus and online,” he writes, “seek to exclude parts or all of the electorate.”
Creamer said this can happen in more than one way.
“Tampering can introduce misinformation to voters, or in the case of voting machines, alter vote reporting,” he said.
Creamer encourages educational institutions to stay aware, inform their faculty, staff and students, and protect voting equipment, if they are a polling site. He also advises staff and faculty to pay special attention to phishing via email and maintaining situational awareness of people on campuses.
“We need to be vigilant because hackers consider educational institutions to be soft and rich targets that provide high bandwidth access to the internet and an easy place to compromise accounts,” Creamer said.