Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Cyber attacks hit Canadians. Again.

The threat of cyberattack is not abstract. When there is information of value, there are now very sophisticated attackers who will attempt to penetrate your systems.

Two recent incidents are:

* the Epsilon breach in the US, where Canadian email addresses were compromised

Air Miles among firms hit by huge data breach

* the attack on four Bay Street law firms

Major law firms fall victim to cyber attacks

Now imagine that instead of email addresses and mergers and acquisitions information, the prize was the entire Canadian election, the direction of the entire Canadian economy.

Do you imagine for a second that the same sophisticated computer attackers that have already successfully broken into computer systems will somehow not decide to attack an online voting system? Keep in mind that corporations and law firms have huge financial and reputation incentives to protect their systems, and they still fail. Do you think the government will do any better? Do you think that the millions of Canadians using their personal computers to vote will have better Internet security than Bay Street law firms?

Voting over the Internet is an invitation to successful cyberattack. And following such an attack, the entire integrity of your voting system is compromised. To compromise a paper-based election you need people to physically intervene simultaneously at locations all across Canada, somehow escaping detection of all the citizens and elections officials present. It would require massive coordination and risk of detection and capture. To compromise an Internet-based election, all you need is one person with an Internet connection anywhere in the world, pushing a button.

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