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It's urgent to protect the election

Organizing the most important election in national history also includes protecting it from cyber attacks

It's urgent to protect the election
File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 12/04/2018 08:58 Mexico City Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 09:05
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Millions of people in Mexico and in the rest of the world are concerned about their security in their streets, neighborhoods, and cities. They take precautions such as avoid walking on dark or empty streets at night, remain in touch with relatives, and being discreet with their personal belongings.

However, few know that intruders may worm their way into their homes through computers or smartphones. This is the so-called cybercrime.

Given the lack of a wide-spread culture on digital prevention, quite often we hear cases of people who provide their bank account or personal data through e-mail and this is later on used against them. The rest of the world is also familiar with the criminals (known as hackers) who literally kidnap the information stored in computers and hold it for ransom.

These are just examples of crimes at a personal level. Imagine now that the victim is an entire country. In this case, hackers seek access to the data held by the main government offices. The damage would be far more extensive and millions of people would be at risk.

Given this scenario, cybercriminals may even “rob” the institutions who are tasked with counting votes during an election – a key decision in the future of a country could land in the hands of cybercrime.

In this regard, The Aspen Institute Mexico, the Miguel Alemán Foundation, and this newspaper organized the Analysis and Discussion Forum on Cybersecurity for the elections.

One of the attendants, John F. Banghart, the former Director of Federal Cybersecurity at the White House during the Barack Obama administration, brought to the table what could be one of the greatest risks:

“We have (information) systems which are vulnerable. They can be cracked or hacked so votes aren't registered or they are changed or made unreadable.”

Mexico – as it was made clear during the discussion forum – isn't above being targeted by hackers.

In 2017, the National Electoral Institute (INE) recognized it had registered cyber attacks attempts from abroad but claimed it is prepared to fend off malicious attacks.

The challenge in organizing the largest election in national history, in which it is already being pushed to see ideas and proposals instead of smear campaigns, we also have to add the – real – threat of domestic or foreign interests attempting to meddle in the electoral process. There are signs that this happened in the U.S. elections and in Brexit.

The INE has to mistrust and protect itself against all possible suspicion. For such a polarizing process, the country needs to have all reassurances possible for July 1st.

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