Another day, another hacking. At least, that’s what it seemed at first.
In August, two election databases in Arizona and Illinois were hacked. Arizona responded by shutting down voter registration for nearly a week, and in Illinois, the breach resulted in the compromise of more than 200,000 voter records. Hackers breaching databases has become so commonplace that the loss of personal information barely raises an eyebrow for most Americans. This hack, like so many others, received little attention at first.
Fast-forward two months and these breaches have taken on new significance. Russia is now credited not only with these voter database hacks, but also with attacks on numerous Democratic National Committee members and key current and former U.S. government officials. Election-related hacking coincides ominously with presidential candidate Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that “the election is rigged” and his threats to not accept the election’s results if he were to lose. Americans, he suggests, can’t trust the outcome because of its manipulation and inauthenticity.
While these breaches have helped sow the seeds of distrust, in reality, hacking the election remains technically challenging, even for state actors like Russia. But in this election, perceptions may overtake reality, and even if Russia fails in its attempts to hack the election, the doubt it raises can still bring them a strategic victory over their American rivals.