Criminals and foreign enemies understand that attacking us online is easier than attacking us in person. Because we increasingly store vital and valuable information digitally, these cyber attacks have grown in consequence, resulting in identity theft, intellectual property theft from US businesses (causing severe financial losses), and defrauding of individuals. We have already seen how Russia’s cyber information warfare was used to influence our 2016 federal election, and thus attack our democratic process.
Given the success of that influence operation, we should be hardening our election systems against hacking and going low-tech to paper ballots, which cannot be hacked. These cyber attacks also present a dangerous national security threat if state-level attackers get into systems that run our critical infrastructure (e.g., electric grid, energy sector, transportation), our space architecture (satellites controlling communication and GPS), or our military defense systems. We need to take steps to harden these systems by increasing resilience and redundancy, or by developing alternatives that have inherent resilience.