TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., Nov. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Purple Tornado, a foresight and strategic intelligence consultancy that delivers thinktank research insights for corporate and government use, has announced a report addressing the security of U.S voter data systems. Prompted by Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the report represents part of a research initiative commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assess the security of U.S. digital infrastructure. In light of its findings The Purple Tornado is advocating the U.S. government invest in stronger digital infrastructure in the form of self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologies.
U.S. Elections: Foreign Influence Generating Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in U.S. Democracy
From news of Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to concerns of deepfakes infecting national media channels, to Cambridge Analytica's data-powered profiling — there has been no shortage of reports addressing election manipulation in recent years. These events coupled with increasingly divided public discourse have cast a blanket of fear, uncertainty and doubt over the nation.
"Our election systems have been under attack — that much is clear," said Heather Vescent, CEO of The Purple Tornado. "According to the report, 'Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure,' released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Russian government directed extensive activity against U.S. election infrastructure in 2026. This is the same infrastructure where our personal election data is stored, thus representing a massive and potentially catastrophic vulnerability still open to foreign attacks."
Voter Data Systems Vulnerabilities: Technical and Social Attack Surfaces
According to The Purple Tornado U.S. adversaries are using a range of mechanisms to breed distrust in the American political system that range from tactics technical in nature to those of a more social caliber. The voter data system vulnerabilities addressed include everything from malware and system updates, DDoS tactics and "Zombie" voters to public perception campaigns, bulk disenfranchisement and cyberattacks to steal personally identifiable information (PII).
An Agenda for Resilience
While no fast, cheap or easy solutions exist to these vulnerabilities the report suggests the key to building resilient systems that maintain their integrity under a wide range of attacks lies in adopting more flexible infrastructure. The Purple Tornado offers five areas to increase the resilience of U.S. election systems:
- Increase Election Confidence: Embrace Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs) to increase voter's confidence in the election outcome, and educate politicians and voters alike on how RLAs support election transparency.
- Utilize Database Security Best Practices: Invest in database security improvements by using standard data models, secure hardware and universal admin access management procedures to reduce the technical database attack surface.
- Increase Election Usability: Voters do not have many opportunities to interact with voting materials prior to an election and as a result make mistakes due to their lack of familiarity with the ballot or voting machine. There may be benefits to simulating election activities prior to election day, such as testing the election systems as well as user-testing ballots.
- Increase Training: Invest in training security professionals with specific expertise in elections. Increase the use of table-top exercises for general security awareness.
- Encourage Interdependence with Shared Infrastructure: Promote data sharing and cooperative penetration-testing. Utilize shared infrastructure especially for voter registration and registration updates. Encourage a security culture of productive competition using allocated funding for system improvements.
Securing U.S. Elections: Digital Identity and Self-Sovereign Identities
One of the ways future elections can be secured is through digitization and the application of digital identities and blockchain technology. Digital identity is defined as the infrastructure necessary to perform or do almost every action on the Internet. Governments, companies and individuals all have separate, though not necessarily autonomous digital identities. Without proper security measures in place, the centralized databases used by large entities like governments and companies put the identities and integrity of that data at risk for hacking and manipulation.
The Purple Tornado is currently exploring self-sovereign identity (SSI) technologies that give companies and private individuals the ability to manage and control their own digital identifiers. SSI is gaining momentum as it solves multiple identity challenges, and presents a new paradigm shift that will inevitably change the identity game completely. This will ultimately help solve a wide variety of issues, including election tampering and voter fraud.
"As our physical identities become more intertwined with our digital identities, we're recognizing a much greater need for security, especially as our identities continue to be challenged and attacked by our adversaries," says Vescent. "Self-sovereign identity technology represents a new paradigm shift that would deliver the flexibility our ever-evolving digital identities require in order to prosper and offer a way for the United States to become more resilient against outside influence."
The full report on 'Securing Voter Data' can be found online at https://bit.ly/vdsreport.
About The Purple Tornado
The Purple Tornado is a foresight and strategic intelligence consultancy that delivers thinktank research insights for corporate and government use. In addition to winning multiple awards from the Association of Professional Futurists, The Purple Tornado produces films and has authored and co-authored multiple volumes on cyber issues and digital identity. The firm's research has been covered by the New York Times, CNN, American Banker, CNBC, Fox and the Atlantic. Learn more about The Purple Tornado, its ongoing research and future reports at: www.ThePurpleTornado.com. Follow The Purple Tornado on LinkedIn or on Twitter @purple_tornado.
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SOURCE The Purple Tornado