Election Day in the U.S. is going to be ugly on the internet. Presuming, of course, the internet will be running. Even if large sections of it aren’t blown away by massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, it’s going to be a wreck in other ways. Here’s what to expect.
0. Vote hacking
This is the one thing you don’t need to worry that much about. True, voting machines are horrifyingly easy to hack, but there are a wide variety of systems. In short, it’s possible to crack some machines, but a significant number of them? That’s not very likely.
In addition, these machines are not connected to the internet. Anyone who wants to crack voting machines has to do it the old-fashioned away–one machine by hand at a time.
1. Assault on the internet
The internet is going to be hammered like never before. I fully expect multiple attacks, like the one that knocked Dyn, a top-tier a major Domain Name System (DNS) service provider offline. It won’t just be the DNS sites. On November 2, tier-one Internet Service Provider (ISP) Level 3 was blasted.
Those attacks, which kept users from millions of sites, were just the warm ups. I am certain we’ll see similar attacks on DNS providers, ISPs, and major websites.
After all, thanks to such programs as the Internet of Things (IoT) Mirai malware, it’s simple to burn down DNS, the internet’s master address list. You don’t need to be Russia or China to foul up the internet; any moderately skilled hacker can do it now.
Besides, as we just saw in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Linux Plumbers conference, even long-fixed DoS attacks like SYN Flood can still drown internet connectivity. ISPs, web sites administrators, and DNS providers can all make it harder for internet attacks to strike home. They’ve done a dismal job of actually doing it.
The federal government is promising it will do its best to protect the internet. In particular they’re rightfully worried that the Russians will make more cyberattacks.
The result? Even with everyone trying their best, I expect the net to be down for many of us and that many of your favorite websites will be offline.
It’s late in the day in Nevada. You’re getting ready to vote. You look at Facebook and your Trump-supporting friends are rejoicing because their news sites are reporting that with his leads in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio he has the election in the bag. Gagging with nausea you decide not to vote… only to find the next day he hadn’t won, but your state did vote for Trump.
It won’t matter what the real results are. So-called news sites such as Breitbart, on the right and Daily Kos on the left, will issue biased reports. If you rely on them for your news, you will not be getting an accurate picture.
In this world of pick and choose news, bias is nothing new. But, on Election Day of all days, you must be sure of your facts. If you’re not, you may make some really bad voting decisions.
You’re also going to see a lot of social network buzz about how if you’re in North Carolina, for example, you must have a picture ID to vote. That is a lie.
Check your local laws, make sure you know where you vote, and do this all before Election Day. There’s already bogus information out there on your voting rights. Come the day, I expect there to be even more.
4. Voter registration rolls hacking
What if you go to your polling place and find you’ve been purged from the eligible voter lists? It’s possible that your record was hacked.
We know of 10 states that have had their voter registration rolls probed or breached by hackers. It is believed that these attacks were made by Russian hackers.
It’s also possible that your voting record was discarded by Republican-controlled state governments such as in Wisconsin and North Carolina. Whether it was done by internet hacking or local politicians, in almost all states you can file a provisional ballot.
5. News attacks
It’s 9 PM Eastern Standard Time and CNN just announced that Michigan and Virginia just went for Trump. Say what? Sure, it’s possible, but unlikely, that one might go Republican but both? The analysts say they find it hard to believe but the numbers are the numbers… except when they’re not.
Unofficial voting results are collected by The Associated Press. They get these early results over the internet, they are then sent to the various news organizations, once more, over the internet. Along the way, it is possible that the data could be caught and changed. Sound crazy? It’s already happened.
Russian hackers deleted key files from the Ukraine’s election commission’s vote tallying computers in 2014. Besides trying to make the votes uncountable, they also attempted to manipulate reporting election results reporting to news networks. The bogus numbers were caught mere minutes before the results were announced.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who resigned after it was found he had taken millions from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, was advising this party during the Ukranian 2014 election. I find it all too plausible that early election results may be tampered with.
So, what you can you do about all of this? First, vote. Then, brace yourself for what’s likely to be a long, messy, and confusing day on the internet. This isn’t going to be pretty.