ORLANDO, Fla. - Cybersecurity expert Mark Ostrowski says the threat of election interference, like the alleged Iranian spoofed emails announced by U.S. intelligence agencies on Wednesday, is serious and growing.
“This has moved from being a concern to being a real threat,” said Mark Ostrowski, head engineer U.S. East, Check Point Software. “The amount of ransomware and the amount of these types of attacks have just exponentially increased from a lot of different factors, because of the pandemic or because of the approaching election.”
Ostrowski explained that voter registration information which was allegedly obtained by Iran and Russia is highly attractive to cybercriminals, because it contains names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails.
“This was public information that was available, consolidated, and used,” said Ostrowski.
Ostrowski said a group or company gathers the information and sells it in bulk.
“[On] the 'dark web,' where a lot of these lists are for sale,” said Ostrowski.
In this case, the cybercriminals used email to attack. The sender posed as the controversial far-right group “Proud Boys,” threatening voters to vote for President Donald Trump.
“By doing that, the idea is that you are able to create this disruption, or as the FBI said to try to create an intimidation-type scenario to influence the election,” said Ostrowski.
As the election nears, Ostrowski fears the attacks will multiply.
So, how do you protect yourself from an attack? Ostrowski said it comes down to educating yourself.
“Make sure the information you’re getting is from a valid source and don’t act on things that you don’t solicit directly, is probably the best advice that I can give,” said Ostrowski.
The expert feels the government is also responsible --using technology and intel to detect and block the attacks and warning the public of an active attack, as the FBI did in this case.
“If people are aware of what types of campaigns are active, that’s the best step because, at the end of the day, a lot of the way to thwart this type of disruption is to know that it’s false,” said Ostrowski.
Some more advice, Ostrowski added, is to give out as little personal information as possible. In Florida, you are not required to provide a phone number when registering to vote.