Cybersecurity, Social Media & The Elections: Part 1

There’s no doubt that social media has given a voice and a platform for millions of people who may have otherwise been unseen and unheard. While social media companies may (or may not) be altruistic at heart, the same platforms provide the perfect ecosystem for bad actors and motivated political campaigns to use marketing, manipulation and “psychographic targeting” to sway elections. Yeah, we know you’ve heard it before but as the data unfolds from Cambridge Analytica and the like, the picture of technological deception becomes more pervasive than any of us imagined.

Last week, social media giant Twitter published an archive of a whopping 10 million tweets from phony troll accounts sent between 2013 and 2018. (yup…that includes the election year, 2016) The tweets originated from over 3,800 different accounts connected with the Russian Internet Research Agency, and another 770 accounts are said to have originated from Iran. Researchers assert that the Russian trolls use the exact same techniques that drive genuine engagement and activism online. It’s pretty clear that part of our job as the cybersecurity community is to do whatever we can to continue to give a voice to the digitally marginalized, while doubling down on stopping the bad guys and keep from weakening our democracy when it matters most.