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Security vulnerabilities can be exploited to electronically disrupt transmission of election results. If hackers could attack the election results portal for Ekiti and Osun elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission should not underestimate the power of hackers; it should prepare for 2023 general elections. Hackers will compete and attempt to infiltrate targets related to the 2023 general elections.
Vulnerabilities in electronic transmission of results make hacking a major possibility on Election Day. Cyber-criminal gangs or activist groups go into election systems that are completely vulnerable. I offer the example of the energetic bear hack, wherein attackers deposited malware on websites intended for software updates for energy companies. The perpetrators infiltrated energy grids and petroleum pipeline operators across the United States and Europe, and went unnoticed for three years. Hackers will definitely target the electronic transmission of 2023 election results in Nigeria.
Cyberattacks may seem like a recent phenomenon but they have been around almost as long as modern computers and computer networking have existed. Things have only become more complex over time, with both hackers and those tasked with cybersecurity continually evolving their methods.
Cyberattack is ‘an attempt by hackers to damage or destroy a computer network or system.’ The reasons for doing so can range from a hacker group wanting to show off their skills or most likely to extort money out of an organisation. Disrupting services and weakening government-controlled entities are also common, and the recent attack on the Irish health system brought to light just how dangerous and damaging such attacks could be.
Thousands of hackers will attempt to hack portal, websites and platforms linked to electronic transmission of 2023 elections results across the 36 states of the country. I want to appeal to INEC to utilise unique networks and custom-built databases with new and updated security protocols. While it is undeniable that websites are vulnerable to hackers, election result portals, websites and platforms are only used to publish preliminary, unofficial results for the public and the media. The sites could be hacked to change actual election results.
Vulnerabilities arise because of the complexity of modern Information Technology systems and human fallibility in making judgments about what actions are safe or unsafe from a cybersecurity perspective. Moreover, cybersecurity is a never-ending challenge. It is unlikely that permanent protections against cyber threats will be developed in the near future given that cybersecurity threats evolve and that adversaries continually adopt new techniques to compromise systems or overcome defences. The general view is that the offense has the upper hand if the attacker is patient and well resourced. With respect to foreign threats, the challenge is compounded by the great asymmetry between the capabilities and resources available to local jurisdictions in Nigeria and those of foreign intelligence services.
INEC has expressed optimism that the days of manipulation of results are over as it has fortified its result-viewing portal. It also recalled how the portal came under several attacks from hackers across the world, including Asia, during the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while delivering a keynote address at a conference of stakeholders on election result management, organised by YIAGA Africa to launch the Election Result Analysis Dashboard Report agenda, said, “Another technical concern for us is the repeated attempts to break through our cyber security system for the portal. Our engineers reported several cyberattacks on the portal during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections; some of them from as far as Asia.
INEC National Commissioner (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye, who made the clarification in a statement, said the procedure for results transmission in next year’s polls would remain the same as obtained in the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
He said the commission’s explanation of results was interpreted to mean it had jettisoned electronic transmission and reverted to the manual process. Okoye said, “This is not correct. For clarity, the procedure for results transmission remains the same as in recent governorship elections.”
Election systems are especially vulnerable when they are connected to the Internet, telephone network or another wide-area network 8 systems that utilise network connections for their functions which include voter registration systems, e-poll books, and post-election canvassing/reporting systems.
Even when systems are not directly connected to networks, they are vulnerable to attack through physical or wireless access. They also are vulnerable whenever data transferred to them originates from another computer system that is itself vulnerable.
- Inwalomhe Donald writes via [email protected]
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