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Disinformation Trumps Cyber Threats in Midterms for Most Security Experts in WaPo Poll

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Only 19% of cyber experts in a Washington Post poll said they’re concerned about cyberattacks in the upcoming midterm election, the newspaper said.

The security pros in the survey belong to the Post’s network experts group of high-level digital security experts across government, the private sector and security research communities. Nearly six in 10 said they’re more worried about disinformation campaigns to influence voters in the midterms compared to 2020.

The data is supported by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director Jen Easterly’s recent statement that the bureau so far had not seen any evidence of cyber activity aimed at election machinery.

What MSSPs Need to Know

Government-focused managed security service providers (MSSPs) engaged with state agencies will want to take note of this data in consultations with their clients, MSSP Alert believes. Recognizing that disinformation and cybersecurity threats could both impact the election will enable MSSPs to be on the lookout for either or both types of intrusions to help state and local election commissions optimize their security postures.

Herb Lin, a cyber expert at Stanford University, told the Post:

“Influence operations require less technical skill than cyber operations and hence are easier to conduct; hence my greater concern about influence operations.”

Another factor that might affect how experts view disruptions to the midterms is the two-year cycle in an off presidential year isn’t very important to foreign adversaries, according to the Post’s expert panel.

Still, the upcoming elections aren’t hacker-free. In mid-October the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that Chinese operatives were looking for weak spots to exploit in election apparatus, the Post reported.

CISA Director Issues Warning

Meanwhile, Easterly recently told attendees at an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that government agencies are worried about how nation-state threat actors are attempting to influence the election:

“It’s a significant concern because we think about these adversaries that are trying to sow discord, that are trying to break us apart, that are trying to undermine the integrity of our elections."

CISA has repeatedly said after the 2020 elections that voting systems had not been compromised by cyberattacks.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.