Moody’s has written a new report noting it is likely there will be some attempted cyberattacks in the U.S. elections scheduled for November 3. Cyberattackers are increasingly targeting the electoral process in democracies across the globe, but countries with strong institutional and governance frameworks like the U.S. are well-positioned to defend the electoral process and mitigate cyber risks. Moreover, the decentralized nature of the U.S. election process makes it difficult for cyberattackers to tamper with the votes and intentions of a wide swathe of the US presidential electorate.
“Compared to the centrally organized federal elections in most democracies, U.S. presidential elections are more decentralized and complex,” said William Foster, Vice President at Moody’s. “Multiple election procedures and differing voting technologies from disparate vendors adds to the complexity of the system. As a result, some jurisdictions are better prepared than others to defend against cyber interference.”
However, localized interference, on even a relatively small scale, could have disproportionate consequences because of the unique nature of the US Electoral College voting system and the importance of presidential swing states. And while widespread adoption of vote-by-mail paper ballots in the election will lower the risk of voting machine tampering, cyber risks are associated with electronic vote casting and tallying machines, online voter registration databases, and organized social media disinformation campaigns.
The report’s highlights include:
The United States’ decentralized election infrastructure impedes wide-scale interference, but localized interference could be an issue. It would be difficult for cyberattackers to tamper with the votes and intentions of a wide swathe of the electorate in a US presidential election. However, localized interference on even a relatively small scale could have disproportionate consequences because of the unique nature of the US Electoral College voting system and the importance of presidential swing states.
The U.S. has vast cybersecurity resources and a strong institutional and governance framework that positions it well to prevent or deal with cyber interference. Ample resources and a strong institutional and governance framework provide the US with considerable insulation from cyber election interference and its consequences, which mitigates potential risks to the sovereign credit profile.
Cyber election interference can undermine the credibility and effectiveness of government institutions. Cyber election interference that exacerbates sociopolitical tensions or disrupts the stability and functioning of institutions and governance can hinder or delay policymaking. In democratic countries like the US, this interference could undermine the integrity and credibility of the institutions and governance framework.
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