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Democrats and Republicans agree: Artifical Intellignce is the biggest threat to the 2024 election

March 2024 by Yubico and Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC)

Yubico and Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organisation committed to bringing free cybersecurity tools and resources to federal election campaigns, announced the results of their survey, ’Impact of Cybersecurity and AI on the 2024 election season’.

Conducted by OnePoll, a leading provider of international market research and data communication solutions, this survey polled 2,000 registered voters in the U.S. to better understand how voters perceive cybersecurity ahead of the 2024 U.S. elections, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and the concerns they have about the cybersecurity of political campaigns, regardless of party affiliations.

"We found it interesting that over 78 percent of respondents are concerned about AI-generated content being used to impersonate a political candidate or create inauthentic content, with Democrats at 79 percent and Republicans at 80 percent," said David Treece, vice president of solutions architecture at Yubico. "Perhaps even more telling is that they believe AI will have a negative effect on this year’s election outcomes (42 percent Democrats and 49 percent Republicans)."

In addition to the threat of AI and deep fakes spreading misinformation, 85 percent of respondents don’t have a high level of confidence that political campaigns effectively protect their personal information. If cybersecurity is not a top focus, campaigns run the risk of being breached, exposing personal data, experiencing a financial impact and more, all which could have a negative effect on the entirety of the campaign. In fact, 42 percent of those who have donated to a campaign said their likelihood of donating again would change if the campaign was hacked and 30 percent report this would even change the likelihood of a candidate receiving their vote.

"Campaigns are the heart of our democracy and every campaign must adopt basic cybersecurity protections. This year is particularly risky for cyber attacks directed at candidates, staffers, and anyone associated with a campaign," said Michael Kaiser, president and CEO of Defending Digital Campaigns. "Having the right cybersecurity in place is not an option — it’s essential for anyone running a political operation. Otherwise, campaigns risk not only losing valuable data, but losing voters."

Additional key findings include:

43 percent of respondents believe that AI-generated content will negatively affect the outcome of the 2024 elections
52 percent of respondents have received an email and/or text message appearing to be from a campaign that they suspected was actually a phishing attempt
85 percent of respondents don’t have a high level of confidence that political campaigns effectively protect the personal information they collect
Registered voters would like to see campaigns and candidates:
Take precautions to prevent their websites from being hacked (42 percent)
Use strong security measures like multi-factor authentication on their accounts (41 percent)
Have policies in place and train staffers and key volunteers on cybersecurity for the campaign and protecting personal information (38 percent)
Over a quarter of respondents (26 percent) indicated they have not completed a transaction making a campaign donation because of concerns about the security of the transaction or how their personal information would be handled

"Because campaigns are built on trust, potential hacks like fraudulent emails or messages sent out impersonating them via their social media accounts where they are directly interacting with their audience, could be detrimental to campaigns," added Treece. "It’s imperative that candidates take proper steps to protect their campaign and more importantly, to build trust with voters, by adopting modern cybersecurity practices like multi-factor authentication. Adding a physical layer of security with a YubiKey to online accounts is a crucial component to ensuring that campaigns remain secure."

Since 2020, Yubico has donated to date tens of thousands of keys to DDC on behalf of Yubico’s philanthropic initiative – Secure it Forward – where the company donates YubiKeys to journalists, human rights activists and organisations that are working to preserve democratic integrity, further diversity in tech and protect human rights.

"Collaboration is one of the most important ways to strengthen cybersecurity," said Kaiser. "At DDC we are extremely grateful for our partnership with Yubico, whose generosity allows us to provide free security keys to campaigns, enabling them with the strongest account protection possible. One key allows a computer user to protect cloud, social, and financial accounts on the campaign, as well as personal accounts and all primary targets of bad actors."

As we head into election season, what can campaigns do to protect themselves and build trust with voters? Even though cybersecurity attacks have become more sophisticated with tools like AI, there are simple ways to help mitigate these risks, including using strong, unique passwords and storing them in a password manager, along with enabling multi-factor authentication whenever possible using physical security keys like the YubiKey.

DDC, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organisation, is committed to bringing free cybersecurity products, services, training, and information to federal political campaigns and committees and down-ballot candidates in a growing number of states. It has an extensive network of partners and resources to prepare political campaigns with the tools they need to stay secure. In partnership with Yubico, they provide YubiKeys at no cost to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle.

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