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Cybersecurity Expert: Election Will Bring ‘Turbulence’

During a recent podcast, cybersecurity expert John Dickson warned of the possibility of a denial-of-service attacks that could overwhelm government websites on election night.

by Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News / September 30, 2020

(TNS) — We all learned in 2016 that there are multiple ways for bad actors to disrupt an election process.

While it’s natural to focus attention on the possible hacking of elections systems, John Dickson sees problems elsewhere.

Dickson, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is principal of the Denim Group, a San Antonio-based cybersecurity firm.

During an interview on this week’s edition of the Express-News’ Puro Politics podcast, Dickson warned about the possibility of denial-of-service attacks, which could take the form of individuals creating so much traffic on elections-office websites that they cause those sites to crash on election night.

This action would not alter the election results, but it would slow down the reporting of those results enough to create chaos and sow suspicion about the integrity of the election results.

“It’s not about changing the tabulation. I don’t need to put my finger on anything, and I can undermine the entire system,” Dickson said. “If you do that, given the temporal nature of elections, it has a disproportionate effect on perceptions.”

Dickson said his firm engaged in a “passive effort” to determine which states have put denial-of-service protections in place and determined that roughly two-thirds — including Texas — have done so.

Nonetheless, Dickson also urged both state and local elections administrators to prepare voters for snags or delays in the reporting of results, given the high volume of mail ballots expected, due to public health concerns created by the COVID-19 virus.

“Results are going to come in a ragged format because of the mail-in vote. Let’s prepare the citizenry for that fact,” Dickson said.

Dickson compared the situation to a pilot warning passengers of a bumpy flight. Dickson said elections officials need to tell voters, “We’re going to encounter turbulence, guys.”

©2020 the San Antonio Express-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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