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June 1, 2017updated 02 Jun 2017 3:28pm

UK General Election hacked – 80% think it could happen

It's not just the majority of people, but also GCHQ and the UK Defense Secretary, who think the UK General Election could be hacked.

By Ellie Burns

A recent poll by security company Tripwire has found that the majority of people believe that hackers could interfere in the upcoming UK General Election.

In results which may have been influenced by hacking allegations in the recent US elections, an overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that hackers could impact the UK general election, with 80% of respondents answering ‘Yes’ or ‘pretty likely’. Only 17% answered that they ‘highly doubt’ the election could be hacked and only 3% answered ‘No way’.

Tim Erlin, VP at Tripwire said “With the ongoing investigations into the US election, it seems only logical that people will start to wonder how hackers will affect the UK elections. With only 20% of respondents in the negative category, it seems clear that people are anticipating that hackers will influence the upcoming elections in one way or another.

The US election and allegations of hacking and Russian involvement has caused waves on both sides of the Atlantic, with UK Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon saying early this year that the West was at risk of Russia ‘weaponsing information’ in order to “disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery.”

READ MORE: Hacking and the Integrity of the US Election

The Defense Secretary went on to point to possible future attacks, saying that “the Head of the German BfV intelligence agency warned the Kremlin is “seeking to influence public opinion and decision-making processes” ahead of this year’s German elections.”

Sir Fallon’s fears were then echoed by spy agency GCHQ, who in March of this year issued a warning about Russian hacking to politicians. Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said: “This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems.

“Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts.”

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Although the UK Defense Secretary and GCHQ, alongside the majority of people, believe the UK General Election can be hacked, the question has to be raised as to how hackers would do it.

“Voting in the election is more of a physical process. When talking about hacking in context of the general election, it would primarily take place by targeting external factors that affect people’s choices or their ability to physically go out and vote on the day,” said Tripwire’s Erlin.

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“One obvious form of this is social engineering. If hackers are able to push fake news via phishing campaigns or on social media, then this can have a big impact on the outcome of an election. If hackers really wanted to mess with the democratic process on Thursday 8th June then another obvious target would be to target national infrastructure systems. With the recent Wannacry outbreak, we have seen the chaos that this can cause and it could cause problems way beyond the general election.

“Other types of hacking that could interfere with the election could focus on targeting external platforms that aid voting, including carpooling apps and websites that help you identify your nearest polling station.”

The Tripwire poll highlights something more than the belief that hackers will impact the election – it also shows the lack of trust in the government in regard to cyber security. Although people could be influenced by hacking rumours which have dogged the US and French elections, it is surprising that so many people do not trust the UK government to protect the democratic process.

“People and organizations alike look to the government to set an example and lead the way on all sorts of issues, including cyber security. What the results of this poll show is that seasoned cyber security professionals and voters are not confident that the UK government’s current election process is protected from hackers. It will be up to whoever is voted in to reassure the public that there was no interference in the election and that their vote was safe,” said Erlin.

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